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Czech Republic: Seven Romani applicants complete ROMEA's media training, say they want to tell Roma stories

5.2.2017 7:30
The ROMEA organization's media training was completed by seven members of the Romani community, six of whom were able to attend the closing ceremony in January 2017. (PHOTO:  Romea.cz)
The ROMEA organization's media training was completed by seven members of the Romani community, six of whom were able to attend the closing ceremony in January 2017. (PHOTO: Romea.cz)

A months-long media training for future journalists from the Romani community in the Czech Republic, offered by the ROMEA organization, has now ended. Seven successful trainees were invited to receive their certificates of completion in the presence of Yechiel Bar-Chaim and Robert Tobon, who represents the US foundation Bader Philanthropies, which supported the project financially.

Trainee Renáta Kováčová was motivated to complete the course by her conviction that journalism represents an opportunity to find stories for communication to the public that can change their opinion of Romani people. "I can document how many of us [with such stories] there are, all one has to do is look around," she said.

"When preparing interviews for the magazine Romano voďi I had the opportunity to meet with successful Romani people and I verified for myself that Romani people, too, are waiting for these stories to be told and can be role models for them," Kováčová said. In the future she would like to focus on producing reportage and documentary films with social content.

"I graduated in social studes and because I am a Romani woman that is very close to my heart," Kováčová said. Her fellow trainee and future journalist Lubomír Čipčala said that in future he would like to focus on refuting the prejudices that predominate about the Romani minority.

"In various polls the opinion is repeatedly expressed that members of the Romani minority don't want to work. I have a different experience, speaking as a crime prevention assistant - 70 % of my own work is helping Romani people find jobs, so I know that Romani people do want to work, but very few people want to employ them," Čipčala said.

Bader Philanthropies was established by a family with roots in the Czech lands. The foundation supports cultural, economic and educational projects in the Czech Republic as well as communication and exchange of experiences between communities on how to improve their living conditions, including internationally.

Robert Tobon explained the reasons the foundation is supporting the Romani community as follows:  "We believe people can emancipate themselves, that those who have not been empowered yet can find their voices and their opinions can be heard in society. In our opinion, it is important to support talented people to tell such stories about their communities and inspire others through them."

Trainee Ivan Kandráč said he is aware that he will also have to grapple with a particular prejudice:  "For me, as a Romani man, it may be more complicated for people to accept me as a journalist." All of the trainees, despite such possible difficulties with discrimination, also agree it is important that their Romani identities be known.

"Romani people, in my experience, are afraid to speak about the fact that they are Romani, and not just in the Czech Republic, but globally this is a problem," said the youngest media trainee, Alex Pačan. He believes, however, that once people are no longer afraid to espouse their Romani identities, then news opportunities will open up for them.

Telling Romani stories

Graduates of the course asked Robert Tobon why it is important for Romani people to be represented in mainstream media outlets, and he replied:  "Journalists play a unique role, they write the first draft of history. If that history is biased by those writing it, then it is difficult to correct that later. That's why it's important for the voices of people of different ethnicities and from diverse economic levels of society to be heard, so there can be various perspectives presenting situations from other points of view. People here need to hear Romani stories too."

According to trainee Martin Oláh, we still live in a time when members of this minority society must convince everybody else that they are just as good as the "majority". This applies, in his view, to all fields.

Oláh focuses on cultural news reporting which, in his view, is also important. "They used to say 'Every Czech is a musician'. I don't know whether that is still the case. However, I decidedly do see that in the case of the Gondolán family of musicians, there actually are people here who are appreciated and valued by the majority society for their cultural talents," he said.

A proper journalist must primarily have a sixth sense for how events might develop, a talent for the field, Oláh said. "A journalist should be one step ahead and should know how to process information correctly. Maybe some of that can be learned, but in any event the journalist must have talent," he told Romea.cz.

During four seminars, three excursions, one field trip and an internship at a media outlet, the trainees got an idea about what the work of journalist is and their first experiences in this area. They were aided by established journalists who themselves are from the Romani community: Patrik Banga (iDNES.cz), Tomáš Bystrý (Czech Radio) and Richard Samko (Czech Television).

brf, th, jal, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Culture, Discrimination, Education, Media



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