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September 22, 2021



Czech Republic: More proof that TV Prima manipulated its reporting about Romani people returning post-Brexit

6.8.2016 17:28
The TV Prima building in the Czech Republic. (PHOTO:  Kacir, Wikimedia Commons)
The TV Prima building in the Czech Republic. (PHOTO: Kacir, Wikimedia Commons)

The Prima television channel in the Czech Republic is not content just to incite its viewers against refugees, but is also inciting them against Romani people, as news server recently reported. TV Prima reporter Kristýna Vedralová alleged in a recent report that "2 500 Romani problematic families" could soon return to the Czech Republic because Britain has begun to take their welfare benefits away.

The report was not based on any facts - the reporter did not find out how many Romani people in Britain work, or how many draw welfare, or even how many (allegedly) are losing their benefits, but just manipulated statements made by two Romani people who were at the Czech consultate in Scotland to arrange travel documents for their families to take a vacation in the Czech Republic. She also did not inform viewers how it was that she ascertained all of the families allegedly returning are "problematic".

Naturally, the reporter was unable to communicate such information because she never even bothered looking for it. She just used the customary stereotypes to incite hatred against Romani people among her Czech audience.

The fact that TV Prima has manipulated facts in its news reporting has now been indrectly confirmed by Lucie Fremlová, a Czech doctoral student in applied social sciences at the University of Brighton who lives in Britain and has long been involved in minority issues. "I have not noticed any mass departure, although there is panic among people in general. It's probably possible to say that the panic is bigger among those groups that fled discrimination, came to Britain, and now are afraid, especially because of the growth in crimes here committed against Central Europeans and Eastern Europeans that are motivated by racial hatred," she told news server

Attacks on migrants have increased in connection with the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union. Several advocates of Brexit preached hatred against immigrants and have been emboldened by the referendum's outcome.

How welfare works in Britain

"I do not have any information that welfare benefits are no longer being disbursed to certain groups of people, and personally I believe it is highly improbable that they would manage to do so in such a short period of time, because the Government will not meet until the end of the summer holidays. Just as it was with the scandals around the special schools, or the authorities taking children away from their families, you can always find a handful of people who will accept payment in exchange for telling the media what they want to hear. Romani people are no exception in this regard. This is bad, unethical journalism that doesn't take into consideration the catastrophic consequences that the reports they buy people off in order to produce might have," Fremlová said.

Her description about welfare benefits has been confirmed by Paul Millar, the honorary Consul of the Czech Republic in Edinburgh, where Prima filmed its reportage. "As far as I am aware, no official declaration about benefits being cut has been made and the Parliament in Westminster has not discussed it. This could be an administrative measure by an individual, local administration - they sometimes review benefits on the basis of the applicable regulations, which take into consideration whether, for example, the individual concerned is working or actively seeking work," the Consul told news server

The information has been clarified by the Czech Embassy in London. "Tightening conditions for welfare in the United Kingdom is not a question of the last few weeks. The Government of British Prime Minister Cameron included that in its program, as part of an announced plan to reduce Government expenditures back in 2010. Gradual reduction in the area of welfare benefits has occurred since 2013 when, for example, a ceiling was introduced for how much money individuals could draw. Another significant reduction in paying social welfare was announced in July of 2015 as part of further restrictions to the British Government's expenditures," Jana Čechlovská of the Public Diplomacy and Press Department of the Czech Embassy in London told news server 

TV Prima did not do a survey

The allegations broadcast by Prima could not be verified by the Czech Embassy. "We don't know what share of those applying for passports are Czech citizens of Romani origin, we don't find that out. Czech citizens whose documents have expired who turn to us with an application to provide them with a substitute travel document for travel to the Czech Republic do not have to declare whether they are going to the Czech Republic for good or, for example, whether they are just taking a vacation and therefore intend to return to the United Kingdom," Čechlovská said.

Diplomats also do not know where Prima got the information that 2 500 "problematic Romani families" might return to the Czech Republic. "We don't know from whom they got that information. We don't know how many Romani families from the Czech Republic are living in the United Kingdom. British official statistics also don't include such information. According to our information, big communities of Czech citizens of Romani origin are found primarily in many large British cities and their surroundings, for example in Birmingham, Bradford, Cardiff, Halifax, Leeds, Newcastle upon Tyne, Peterborough, etc. Whether some of them want to return to the Czech Republic for good, or how many citizens precisely are going back, we don't know. Information of that kind cannot be acquired without performing an adequate survey in a particular place,"  Čechlovská said.

Millar said that the data about the number of Romani families could have come from social charities involved with the community. TV Prima, however, did not say what its source was in its news reporting.  

Tarring the Roma with one brush

Robert Daňo is a Romani man who lives in Canada, but he has a good overview of the situation in Britain. In his opinion, it is necessary to contact the authorities and publicly submit the facts to them about the Prima television channel manipulating its viewers.

"The reporter tarred all Romani people with the same brush. She says approximately 2 500 Romani families (10 000 Roma) are returning because they are stopping welfare in England! Anybody knows that in Britain they won't open a bank account for you unless you have an employment contract. If you do receive unemployment benefits, it's just for the limited time of three months. Housing benefit, the type of benefit that Consul Millar was talking about, is a contribution toward your housing that aids you with paying your rent if you have a low income. People take advantage of that aid whether they are working or not - it makes no difference. Everybody does, not just Romani people. A genuinely good job, a well-paid one, is not to be found just for the asking in Britain either," he told news server

We asked TV Prima once more to comment on the scandal around their reporting last week. Once again, the station did not respond to our queries. 

František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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