Czech Republic: Roma report racism to Facebook after calls for "gypsies" to be set on fire are posted
A person presenting herself on Facebook as "Bára Fictumová" now awaits criminal investigation after two Romani people, the well-known activist Jan Čonka and journalist Patrik Banga, filed a report of criminal activity over a post on that page. Fictumová has sadly now become famous on Facebook by posting the following message:
"All gypsies should be set on fire just like Natálka, what sense does her life make when she is burned, fingerless, incapable and even blacker than before?" The remarks were posted in a group called "Who Wants Me?" ("Kdo chce mne“).
Photographs of the victims of the April 2009 arson attack on a Romani family's home in the Czech town of Vítkov, to which the post referred, were posted beneath the text. Banga and Čonka are convinced that three different offenses have been committed through this post: Defamation of an ethnic, national, racial or other group; incitement to hatred against a group; and approving of a felony.
Fictumová faces up to three years in prison if apprehended, tried and convicted. Banga and Čonka are collaborating on the case with the In IUSTITIA association, which is involved in prosecuting hate crime and providing legal advice in such matters.
Crossing the line
"I was terribly insulted that somebody could write something like that. It has hurt me deeply because I know what little Natálka has gone through," Čonka told news server Romea.cz.
According to Banga, the post crosses all possible lines. "It is paradoxical that I myself said earlier that there is no point in criminalizing this person [who posted the remarks], given her young age. She could just have been doing her best to get attention, for example. Either that, or she basically doesn't understand what she is saying. Paradoxically, I was convinced by a police officer from the criminal detective division to file the complaint. We agreed that if we all just keep quiet about similar situations, if we do nothing, then this behavior will become the standard. If somebody writes something like this, then that person must be prepared to bear the consequences," Banga told news server Romea.cz.
Incitement to hatred, which is what Fictumová is suspected of having committed, contributes to deteriorating the atmosphere in society, according to Banga. "Doesn't the biggest danger probably lie in the fact that when people openly approve of such crimes, a defense will then always be found for them?" he asked.
"In the Czech Republic, as a democratic state, there are no second-class citizens about whom it is possible to say that they are not wanted here, or about whom it is possible to approve of such serious criminal activity perpetrated against them, nor is it possible to call for such criminal activity to be committed against anybody. Hate speech attacking a specific group of inhabitants for their faith, origin, skin color or any other reason, when that speech is capable of sparking animosity and repulsion in relation to that group, does not enjoy constitutional protection," the criminal report reads.
Similar or even more hateful remarks have bustled through the Internet ever since four racist arsonists attempted to set the Romani family on fire in Vítkov in 2009. Arsonists David Vaculík and Jaromír Lukeš have been sentenced to 22 years in prison for the crime, while Václav Cojocaru and Ivo Müller got 20-year sentences.
All four were convicted of multiple counts of racially motivated attempted murder and of property damage. Other limited persons who view the world with hatred, especially as far as refugees or Roma are concerned, have also wreaked havoc online when it comes to the Romani family, among other reasons because of the length of the sentences handed down against those who committed these crimes.
The following are some examples (in translation) of remarks made online when the arsonists were convicted in 2010. These examples represent the average tenor of the remarks posted and are not exceptional ones in any sense.
For example, a person appearing on Facebook under the name "Michal Vandal Tenkl" wrote: "The swine should have bit the dust and the rest of the garbage TOO!!" A person under the name "Václav Mendel" posted this remark: "Even if somebody in that house had burned to death, five years would have been too much!"
Somebody posting under the name "Petr Mikolajczyk" wrote: "I guess I'll send Natálka some hair, I don't need mine :D so she won't look like a chicken that hasn't been grilled all the way...". Somebody under the name "Martin Genetix Nádaský" posted: "Finally somebody was brave enough to do something with the black mugs. Greetings from Slovakia!"
Whenever the family is covered by the media for some reason, this hatred always strikes again with full force. For example, in March 2012, after a "scandal" began involving allegations that Natálka's mother had not paid a phone bill, the Czech media hounded the family.
Those allegations were reason enough for "deprived, stupid brutes", as expert witness on extremism Ivo Svoboda has called this type of person, to resurface into the light of day again. Threatening e-mails and telephone calls were made not just to the afflicted family directly, but also to people who have been doing their best to help them with their heavy lot.
"I don't even answer the telephone anymore, I am constantly being cursed with vulgar expressions, they tell me I'm a 'swine' and that I will 'go to the gas with the Gypsies too'. These people curse us in hateful e-mails addressed to our association. If [the victims] had been white, everybody would feel sorry for them, but because they are Romani, some members of the public condemn them," Helena Jedináková of the Ostrava-based association Vzájemné soužití (Life Together), which is aiding the family, told news server Romea.cz.
The same experience has been visited upon news server Romea.cz, the e-mail address for which has received hateful, racist slurs addressed to the family and the members of the ROMEA association. Other examples of hateful posts about Natálka and her family on Facebook are as follows:
"Starej Brůna" - "She'll grow up to be a pickpocket who will prey on your children all the same, how else do you believe they'll raise her? They'll really be glad once she grows up and learns that they left her inside to burn instead of saving her - they were dragging all that stolen property out of the building instead, some parents they are!!!"
"Orochimaru Kun" - "I'd charge the Sivák family for letting the building and Natálie burn, that polluted the atmosphere and contributed exhaust to the hole in the ozone layer."
"Veronika Špačková" - "Imagine, when somebody goes to give blood, it will be running through the veins of this kind of filth!"
"Hubert Wolf" - "Natálka will be a rich bride :D I'm not afraid of that, she'll give birth to 20 brats, they'll throw the guys in jail and she'll still get offers,
she'll be the richest pestilence in the Czech Republic."
"Orochimaru Kun" - "If you run over a gypsy in the crosswalk you shouldn't be punished, because the ordinance clearly states that you have to yield to pedestrians, i.e., human beings. Gypsies are less than bacteria or the flu, so it doesn't apply to them. The same goes for vitkov."
"Orochimaru Kun" - "The only good gypsy is a dead gypsy." This was a reaction to a preceding post, which said "Let's go together, who gives a shit, let's fire up the ovens and only smoke will remain :DDD."
"Jerry O' Thomas" - "I'd move all of you who defend these stinking black larva to live underneath one of these gypsy motherfuckers in the same building so you could fully enjoy multi-culti...cocks."
"Michal Zácha" - "If DS [the Workers' Party] had won the elections, all of those families in the Czech Republic would have been set on fire!"
"Petra Meszárošová" - "I believe that if this had been committed by a citizen from the Romani population :-)) then he would have just gotten a slap on the wrist!!! Where are we now that we are beginning to obey the gypsies? The state is constantly offering them education, jobs... and do they appreciate it?? NOOO...this is a loathsome burden on the state and the money we make goes to pay for them!!!!! When will there be an end to this????"
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