Czech Republic: Open Society Fund explains its financial cooperation with owner of tabloid Extra.cz
The Open Society Fund Prague (OSF Prague) has announced a scholarship fund to support Romani college students in collaboration with Jan Barta, the owner of the tabloid publication Extra.cz. News server Romea.cz has asked OSF Prague whether they consider it problematic to collaborate with the owner of a tabloid whose Editor-in-Chief, Pavel Novotný, makes no secret of the fact that he manipulates "Romani topics" to increase readership.
"If Gypsies beat up a pub owner, I'll write six articles about it and keep on writing them... I'll say it's a Rom no matter what the cost. If whites beat up a white guy, or if a white guy beats up a Rom... then no," Novotný says in the documentary film Dělníci bulváru ("Tabloid Workers").
News server Romea.cz has documented several concretely untruthful articles about Romani people published on Extra.cz. In response to Novotný's statements in the documentary, Barta was supposed to adopt a code of ethics for the tabloid banning such behavior, but last September Extra.cz was still publishing headlines such as "The Roma in Slovakia won't take no for an answer: Rejected lover stabs his mother-in-law with a fork, amputates his love's leg".
Response from OSF Prague to Romea.cz
The idea to finance scholarships for Romani college students came from Jan Barta, not from us - but we do not believe he is doing this just to improve his image, as you seem to indicate. Since 2011 he has supported socially disadvantaged students at the English College in Prague (the so-called Barta Scholars).
The Václav Havel Scholarship is intended directly for Romani students at that same school and was initiated by its students themselves, who contribute to their disadvantaged classmates being able to study there, although Jan Barta also supports that scholarship financially to a great degree. In the case of our scholarship program, Mr Barta had a clear idea from the beginning of what the program should look like and actively contributed to its subsequent form.
He insisted, for example, on greater involvement of Romani people in creating the mentoring program, came up with its name, etc., and last but not least he will also serve as a mentor donating time to the Romani students. The degree of his personal involvement indicates that he is not just interested in improving his own reputation.
We have also verified that, in addition to the scholarships at the English College in Prague, Jan Barta supports other activities with which we are ideologically affiliated (Reconstruction of the State, the Anti-Corruption Endowment, Forum 2000, Parallel Polis, etc.) or projects of which we are fans (student films at FAMU, the sociocultural projects of Ondřej Kobza, etc.). From the beginning of our collaboration with Mr Barta we were aware that this effort might be linked with Extra.cz, whose Editor-in-Chief stated in the documentary film "Tabloid Workers" that he intentionally emphasizes Romani ethnicity in that publication.
The result of Pavel Novotný's statement was that Jan Barta introduced an ethical "10 Commandments" for the editorial office. According to that code of conduct, editors are supposed to criticize specific behaviors of those reported on by the publication, not their race, state affiliation, or any other affiliation.
We are also aware that the Green Party, on whose list Jan Barta has run for office, also had problems with the scandal caused by that documentary. Jan Žáček, spokesperson for the party, responded to your news server by saying that he believed Jan Barta has never interfered with the content of the media outlets he owns in any way whatsoever, and we, too, respect that argument.
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