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Czech Republic: Romani personalities condemn the term "inadaptables"

Prague, 2.12.2011 16:42, (ROMEA)
Karel Holomek, chair of the Romani Association of Moravia (Společenství Romů na Moravě), member of the Executive Committee of the Statewide Romani Association of the Czech Republic (Celostátní asociace Romů ČR)

Romani personalities contacted by news server Romea.cz do not like the fact that the Czech media use the expression "inadaptables" to refer to socially excluded people. The main reason is that the media and public officials actually use the expression to refer to members of the Romani minority, often in such a way as to conceal their xenophobic relationship towards the members of this minority.

A discussion of the concept of "inadaptables" was recently launched by Anna Šabatová and Petr Uhl, human rights defenders who were dissidents during communism. They have complained to the Czech Council of Radio and Television Broadcasting (Rada pro rozhlasové a televizní vysílání - RRTV) about Czech television stations using the expression. RRTV has claimed that the use of this term does not "explicitly" break the law, but did pass the complaint on to the Czech Television board of directors and to the Association of Television Organizations (Asociace televizních organizací - ATO) with a request for their perspective on the issue.

Michal Heldenburg, head of Czech Television's legal department, wrote a response to the complaint that has now become a scandal. Milan Uhde, chair of the board of directors of the public television broadcaster, has issued a public statement calling Heldenburg's letter "monstrous". In the letter, Heldenburg makes several generalizations and construes democratic society as a kind of majority rule that takes no account of minorities. With respect to the word "inadaptables", he wrote the following:

"Essentially, anyone who does not obey the laws of the land, who does not behave according to the generally recognized rules, can be labeled that way; it can be any minority incapable of or unwilling to assimilate into the majority society. There is nothing racist about it. Human society functions in such a way that minorities assimilate into the majority. Anyone who doesn't understand this is an inadaptable, irrespective of ethnic origin or skin color."

The head of the Czech Television legal department then proceeded to make irrelevant arguments using a peculiar "legal" vocabulary, writing: "Gypsies work at Czech Television. One of them is even a news anchor. Isn't that a concrete example of breaking down such stereotypes?" (For our previous reporting on this issue, see http://www.romea.cz/english/index.php?id=detail&detail=2007_2990).

Karel Holomek, chair of the Romani Association of Moravia (Společenství Romů na Moravě), who is a member of the Executive Committee of the recently-established Statewide Romani Association of the Czech Republic (Celostátní asociace Romů ČR), commented on the scandal as follows: "I unequivocally stand by the opinion expressed by Anna Šabatová and Petr Uhl. For my part, I would only add that this term conceals an unacceptable generalization. Both I and many other people who are upright citizens have been labeled with this term. The expression automatically makes the listener think of Romani people. That is what is horrible! Naturally, the head of the legal department of Czech Television is incapable of sensing this, which is why he is so ignorantly confident that he is right. The expression 'adaptable' could be used as well and it would be far more correct, because that term describes someone who adjusts to conditions - but the very expression itself involves a stigma!"

Romani author Irena Eliášová commented as follows: "There are many things, expressions, that I don't like. The term 'inadaptables', in my view, is the same as saying 'bad' or 'not normal', it refers to someone who does not know how to assimilate. When we Romani people are thus labeled (and that happens constantly), it is offensive! Whenever some Romani individuals commit criminal activity, it is then associated with all of us - but when discussing Romani people who live normally, are other terms used? Are those people labeled in the media by any expression other than 'inadaptables'? No other term is used, this is a term that refers to all Romani people without distinction. I have many other questions on this issue: Does the media label as 'inadaptable' those in government who are directly enriching themselves through suspicious methods while others are living on the edge of poverty? What about a pedophile who takes the life of a child, or a son who murders his own parents? Even those people can simultaneously be considered 'patriots', Czechs who claim the Romani people are 'inadaptables'. I could give many such examples. In the media, of course, such persons are not labeled 'inadaptable' because they are Czech, not Romani. Generally speaking and simply put: Get your own house in order..."

Čeněk Růžička, chair of the Committee for the Redress of the Romani Holocaust (Výbor pro odškodnění romského holocaustu), who is also a member of the preparatory committee for a new Romani political party, said: "I support the complaint made by Anna Šabatová and Petr Uhl. Michal Heldenburg's statement offended me as a Romani person. Some of the editors at Czech Television know very well that the majority society links the expression 'inadaptables' with Romani people. It is a devious way of condoning the xenophobic view of Romani people. The excuse that a Romani person works at Czech Television does not withstand scrutiny. It is more than obvious that at the time that Romani person was hired there, it was because Czech Television was politically tasked with doing so. If only more Romani people were employed here."

František Kostlán, Gwendolyn Albert, František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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