Czech Supreme Court president fires spokesperson for anti-Romani remarks
Pavel Šámal, president of the Czech Supreme Court, is dismissing Petr Knötig, the head of the public relations department and the court's spokesperson, as of today. Šámal informed the Czech News Agency of his decision in a telephone interview.
One reason for the dismissal is remarks about Romani people made by Knötig on a social networking site, although Šámal said he has been dissatisfied with the spokesperson for some time. Reporting by the Center for Independent Investigations and RESPEKT magazine over the last few days revealed that Knötig has photographed himself at the courthouse holding a firearm and referred to Romani people using an ethnic slur in an online discussion about a series of photographs of Romani children playing near a fountain in Brno.
Knötig has been the spokesperson for the court since 2007. He told the Czech News Agency today that he does not believe he has done anything wrong.
"It is simply unbearable for such a person to work for the Supreme Court at all, not to mention in the position of press spokesperson," Šámal told the Czech News Agency, adding that he will be traveling from Prague to Brno today to dismiss Knötig. "I would like him to leave the Supreme Court entirely," he added, saying that he had previously expressed dissatisfaction with the spokesperson's work after taking office.
Knötig posted the following remarks to Facebook beneath photos of a newly-reconstructed fountain in Brno showing mostly Romani children playing in the water: "Chicories, all chicories. All it would take is to leave one police patrol there to drive them away, the officers could also patrol the surroundings."
The Supreme Court spokesperson also participated in a harshly racist discussion that unfolded beneath the photographs. Others participating used expressions such as "filth", "garbage", "monkeys" and "stinking gypsies".
The other discussants also expressed regret that the fountain was not running with gasoline that might be set alight, or with sulfuric acid. The fountains style of geysers shooting water directly from the ground are not unique to Brno, but can be found, for example, in London near the Olympic Stadium.
There, too, the fountain serves mainly as an attraction for children. Knötig ultimately erased his posts from the online discussion.
Today he told the Czech News Agency that his remarks had merely expressed the view that it should not be normal for a fountain to be used for bathing that might possibly result in damage. "That applies to everyone irrespective of religion, sexual orientation or skin color," he said.
Knötig also said he considers the expression "chicory" to be a Brno slang term for ethnic Roma and does not believe it is offensive. "I distinguish between whether people are decent or not, and it's all the same what majority or minority they belong to. I have many acquaintances who are ethnic Romani and I don't have any problem having a good time with them because they are decent and friendly," he said.
The spokesperson also said he does not consider it to have been a mistake for him to have participated in the online discussion about the children - and claims he no longer remembers what other people posted there. Why, then, did he erase his own contributions?
"I didn't want a debate about it," he explained to Respekt.cz. Šámal was sent a print screen of the online discussion with the spokesperson's posts before they were erased.
"I am horrified that our press spokesperson is participating in this kind of obviously racist discussion," the Supreme Court president told Respekt.cz, having previously told the magazine he would address the issue with Knötig at the beginning of next week. One day later, the Center for Independent Investigations published a photo of the spokesperson at the courthouse holding a shotgun, and Šámal said Knötig would not be continuing - "He's fired."
- Roma demand apology from Czech Education Minister on Facebook for his insulting remarks on television
- Czech-language hate group tries to pass off picture of Nobel Prize winner as its Facebook administrator
- Czech-language Facebook page slanders Romani organizations as anti-Islam
- Facebook erases Czech hate page against Islam, other racist pages still running
- Facebook tolerates racism disguised as humor
- Czech Republic: Romani group publishes Facebook petition against collective blame
- Czech Republic: Five charged with promoting Nazism on Facebook
- Facebook pages of Czech MP and mayor spreading racism
- Czech youth prosecuted for promoting Nazism on Facebook
- Commentary: Czech Facebook and the Vítkov arson sentences
- Facebook group against Romanes language in Czech schools: 40 000 strong
- Czech police find assault weapons in the home of an anti-Roma Facebook page author
- Shut down this Facebook hate site!
- German Govt approves measures to combat right-wing extremism, requires social media firms to report IP addresses of users making death threats
- Czech Regional Court returns online hate speech case about death threats against first-graders to lower court, more evidence needed
- Michal Mižigár: What democracy brought us Romani people in the Czech Republic in the 1990s
- In future, Czech quarterly reports on extremism may mention only settled cases, not ones in progress
- Romani man from the Czech Republic living in England launches Facebook challenge to aid homeless people, other Roma in Europe respond
- Czech counter-intelligence disrupted Russian hacker spies and Hezbollah network, warns ultra-right targeting of Muslims could contribute to radicalization
- LIVE BROADCAST: International Conference on Antigypsyism and Hate Speech Online
- Lifeguard gets state honors from Czech President for injuries sustained in brawl that sparked ultra-right anti-Romani demonstration
- European experts say hatred online endangers democracy, nonprofits are monitoring social media response to it
- Pavel Botoš: Who will stop the use of terms like "cigoši" in the Czech Republic?
- Iveta Bílková: Czech society should not tolerate words like "Cigán", "Cigoši", etc.
- Roma are most frequently targeted by hatred on the Czech Internet, experts say the law applies online too