Czech Republic: Manipulative television report sparks hatred against Christian refugees from Iraq
A report by the Prima television station broadcast on 11 February 2016 in its main news program has sparked many hateful online posts in the Czech Republic. The report featured a refugee who arrived in the Czech Republic several weeks ago with the aid of the Generation 21 Foundation (NF G21) and who was alleged to have expressed many criticisms of the accommodation he was offered in the town of Jihlava.
The foundation, however, says the report was manipulative in that it attributed a statement to the man that he never made. NF G21 has asked Prima to show them the unedited video footage used to make the report, but reporter Bohumil Roub is refusing to provide it.
"One of the refugees has that part of the interview recorded on his mobile phone - the part where the man is allegedly talking about a 'repainted cowshed' and 'immediately returning to Iraq'. From the mobile phone recording it is clear to see that Prima TV used their simultaneous translation to put words into the refugee's mouth that he never said. The reason is probably an incorrect translation provided by the interpreter who was there with the reporter," said Jan Talafant, director of NF G21.
According to the foundation, a correct approximate translation of the statement at issue, as spoken by refugee George Batto, is as follows: "We came here with open hearts to live in this country. During the past few days of our stay in the Czech Republic we have become convinced that the Czechs are very dear people who have accepted us and met all of our needs. I just hope that we will receive appropriate housing. Everything else can be gradually arranged. We did not come here to eat and rest, but to work. My sons are handy people who are able to provide for their families' needs. However, if we are given an inappropriate place to live, we won't be able to work."
That translation of the recording has been verified by interpreters working with the Czech Goverment's Hate Free Culture initiative. Their translation of that specific part of the recording is as follows: "We came here and we really have a [strong] will to live here, we really see during these five days that there are good people here - they are aiding others, arranging everything for us, and our aim is that our accommodation be appropriate. We can arrange for everything else ourselves, because we came here to work and not to get things [in Arabic, literally 'food and drink'] for free. We have experience, we have come to work. Each of us has professional experience. In the future I will provide for my own needs so I can support my family and children. When I came here I was surprised that the accommodation is inappropriate. I cannot agree with it [in Arabic 'I can't bear it']."
From both of these alternate translations it can be seen that the man interviewed never used the words "repainted cowshed". He also never discussed returning to Iraq.
"If I don't bring them something sensational, then I won't have a job"
NF G21, immediately after the report was filmed, sent a statement to Prima pointing out that what the refugee had been referring to was the fact that his wife, an elderly woman, is ill, has serious problems with walking, had medical difficulties on her way to the Czech Republic, and injured herself when she fell on an escalator at the airport. "Because we did not know this, we got them an apartment on an upper floor in a building without an elevator. The refugee [George] was responding to that and, given the overall circumstances, he was emotional and excited when TV Prima was here - that's all this is about. The TV Prima reporter absolutely ignored the explanation we gave him. He also distorted other statements made by other refugees in the reportage, similar to this distortion, and the reportage as a whole is a distortion," Talafant said.
Staffers with the charity say they also did their best to explain everything immediately at the scene. Allegedly Roub said to them: "If I don't bring them something sensational, then I won't have a job."
"We are happy the Czech Republic has given us a chance at a new life. Kind people are taking care of us 24 hours a day. We have always spoken with the media in good faith and we wanted to do the best that was possible at that moment. We ask forgiveness if anything we said was inappropriate, and we are very sorry that we gave tabloid journalists the opportunity to twist reality," Batto said of the distorted report.
Reporter has also produced anti-Romani reportages
This is not the first time Roub has had a problem with distortions in his reporting. According to the Czech Council on Radio and Television Broadcasting, Prima broadcast reports on its main news program in 2014 that served to reinforce stereotypical prejudices held about the Romani minority.
The criticized reporting was broadcast between 9 April and 31 May 2014 as part of a segment called "Where Others Fear to Go" and was produced by Roub. Prior to that, in 2012, he had even been let go by Prima for remarks he posted to his Facebook profile.
The journalist complained through the social networking site that because no one had died that day he had nothing to write about. According to the tabloid server Blesk.cz, however, that was not the only reason he lost his job in 2012, as he allegedly also had problems with alcohol.
The Facebook post that cost Roub his job in 2012 read as follows: "So no one intends to kill someone or at least seriously injure them in a traffic accident today? What the hell kind of day is this, grrrr."
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