Czech Republic: New campaign combats hate online
The Czech Government's HateFree Culture campaign has issued the following press release:
Almost two and a half million hateful commentaries about minorities and some social groups have been posted to the Czech Internet during the past year. Now more than 40 public figures are involved in a new campaign called "We're All In This Together" ("Jsme v tom společně").
The campaign aims to draw attention to the fact that such hateful commentaries are not just being posted about the members of minorities, but about many different kinds of people for different reasons. The online campaign is linked to radio and television spots of the same name and features a series of portraits of the figures promoting it.
Several months ago photographs of a Muslim woman named Irena and her children in the Czech Republic were featured online as part of the "Not In My Name" campaign, and Czech-language Internet user Vlastimír N. posted "Shoot her!!!" beneath them. Irena is now one of the faces of the television advertisements for the "We're All In This Together" campaign, which is just now beginning its rotation on several television stations in the Czech Republic.
In other examples of hate, Czech-language Internet user "Jiří S." posted the following online about bestselling Czech author Kateřina Tučková: "Tučková and those like her are the scum and the shame of our nation. She just wants publicity."
Articles in the media about Czech actress Sandra Nováková's pregnancy received this online response from Czech-language Internet user "asijo" castigating her: "My friend has a cat expecting kittens who is prettier than this monkey, but she isn't bragging about it in [the tabloid] Blesk." A Czech-language Internet user going by the nickname of "ejet" posted the following about documentary filmmaker Apolena Rychlíková: "I am looking forward to the day those poor guys circumcise the genitals of comrade Apolena. While she's alive, of course. That will be fun!!!!!"
The singer Jan Bendig has publicized an online message sent to him by a user called "Mark D.": "I'd like to drown you, little Gypsy, and beat up your entire family." The author Irena Obermannová also has also become the target of hateful, offensive commentaries in connection with her work: "You moldy 'truth-loving' slut, you're disgusting," was the online discussion post from an Internet user called "wojtylak".
"The aim of these photographs and videos is to point out that anyone can encounter hate in the online environment, and not just because of affiliation with an ethnic, religious or sexual group. Frequently people become a target of offensive commentaries because of their appearance, life experiences, opinions, profession, and for many other reasons," says Lukáš Houdek of the Czech Government's HateFree Culture campaign.
"It is, therefore, in the interest of us all to do our best to reclaim the online environment and primarily to reflect ourselves before we write something similar there. We never know when we ourselves or someone close to us might become a target of online hate or insults. We are all in this together," Houdek said.
More than 40 public figures are involved in the campaign from across various areas of cultural and social life who have allowed themselves to be photographed doing ordinary activities during their everyday lives. Their portraits are then accompanied by the hateful, insulting commentaries they have received by e-mail, or as commentaries beneath posts on Facebook or in online discussion forums.
Those figures include the singer Pavel Vítek and his partner Janis Sidovský, the singers Ben Cristovao and David Kraus, the singer Tonya Graves, the actor Berenika Kohoutová, the actors Lukáš Hejlík and Jakub Žáček, and vloggers Martin ATI Malý, Martin Rota and Dominika Myslivcová. Those photographed include former drug users, Muslims, people living with HIV/AIDS, people of a different sexual orientation, Vietnamese, Roma, senior citizens, etc.
In real life people frequently react differently to others than they do in the online environment, as was demonstrated by a recent social experiment conducted by the Czech Government's Hate Free Culture initiative, which sent people posing as a Syrian refugee family onto the streets of several municipalities throughout the Czech Republic. Despite the strongly negative disposition of the Czech-language discussions of such people on the Internet, most of the residents of the towns the "test-family" met behaved toward them with empathy and solidarity.
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