Czech Republic: ROMEA calls for irresponsible journalists to be held accountable
Yesterday on its "Studio STOP" program, Czech Radio 6 discussed Romani topics such as the recent public opinion polls showing that more than 80 % of Czechs evaluate their coexistence with Romani people negatively, anti-Romani sentiment in society, the options available to the Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner, recent scandals, and opinions on how to address the situation. The program, moderated by Jarmila Balážová was attended by Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Monika Šimůnková, director of the ROMEA association Zdeněk Ryšavý, and sociologist Ivan Gabal.
Commissioner Šimůnková said one of the main causes of inter-communal problems in the Czech Republic is the fact that one-third of Romani children attend "special schools", as a result of which they enjoy much worse conditions on the labor market as adults than non-Romani people do. The director of ROMEA, Zdeněk Ryšavý, is convinced that the position of the Romani minority is influenced by multiple factors, such as the current impoverishment of people by the economic crisis, which leads them to look for "enemies" to blame, as well as the role of the media and politicians who seek to score political points by playing the "Romani card". For example, former Czech Prime Minister Miloš Zeman recently said he was accepting the political support of Czech Senator Doubrava, who wanted "to send the army after the Gypsies".
Šimůnková responded to that by saying that politicians should do more to express the idea that anything bordering on racism is unacceptable. The government reportedly has a good strategy available to it, designed by the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion in Roma Localities, which Šimůnková oversees. Ryšavý says there is no political will to implement that strategy. "[Former Czech] Education Minister Josef Dobeš, for example, voted for the strategy, but then did the exact opposite," he said.
The relationship between people from the majority and the Romani minority is not improving, a conclusion prompted by the results of public opinion polls. According to sociologist Ivan Gabal, the way such polling is currently conducted is "stupid". In his view, the polls need to finally start reviewing people's opinions on how to address concrete situations in education, employment, etc., so the public can participate in resolving these problems at a minimum by expressing their opinions on them.
Gabal said the media must definitely be approached critically because changes in the position of the classic media outlets mean that reporting on Romani topics is being governed more and more solely by the need to increase readership and viewership. "If a journalist publishes untrue information, he must take responsibility for it," Ryšavý said.
The entire program (in Czech only) can be heard here: http://prehravac.rozhlas.cz/audio/2632013
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