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Czech tabloid apologizes for invented report about Romani political party treasurer

Prague, 22.2.2012 19:44, (ROMEA)

The news server ParlamentníListy.cz has disclaimed its report about the "European Romani Party" (ERS) having been allegedly robbed by its own treasurer during its constitutive assembly. The entire report was invented. Its author, Václav Prokůpek, was once a leading candidate for the Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti -DSSS). Editors at Parlamentnílisty.cz have now ceased all collaboration with him.

News server Romea.cz was the first to point out that the report was untrue. Several media outlets reprinted the false news without verifying it.

"Václav Prokůpek, the author of the incriminated article - who today no longer writes for ParlamentníListy.cz - repeatedly assured the editorial leadership that he had made an audio recording of the event and taken photographs of it. As of yesterday evening, former reporter Prokůpek was still repeating those words," news server Parlamentnílisty.cz reports.

Prokůpek gave the same response to a question posed by news server Romea.cz when we directly asked him for contacts so we could verify the report. "Naturally," he said, "I have photos available and a Dictaphone recording, but I will not give you my contacts on principle, I am a freelancer."

"Even though at the start ParlamentníListy.cz believed the words of this reporter, who had previously passed the test of producing several other pieces of material without any problem, after the information reported in particular by Patrik Banga and František Kostlán, as well as investigations of our own, the editors came to the conclusion that this piece of material was mendacious and that the author had all but completely invented it," continues news server Parlamentnílisty.cz, adding: "ParlamentníListy.cz thanks Patrik Banga first and foremost for pointing out this regrettable matter. ParlamentníListy.cz also apologizes to all persons and readers who were aggrieved by the piece."

The invented article, which was taken up without being verified by the larger news servers on the Czech scene, such as iDNES.cz, TN.cz, Týden.cz, Deník.cz, etc., became an internet sensation. Thousands of people shared the "news" and many racist, anti-Romani opinions have been voiced in online discussions housed by media outlets.

For the time being, the only other news server to respond to this clear oversight has been news server iDNES.cz, which published a blog about it by Patrik Banga in its news section and has also published its own apology. Banga collaborates with Romea.cz. "We are very sorry that we misinformed our readers and did not reveal this disinformation sooner. From this point forward we will apply stricter rules to the monitoring of other media outlets so that this never occurs again," said Editor-in Chief Michal Hanák.

Last night, news server TÝDEN.cz quietly removed the invented article from its website and published a new article on its front page correcting the information according to the findings of news server Romea.cz. News server Novinky.cz, which did not report the hoax, published an article summarizing the entire affair and confirming the findings of news server Romea.cz.

Ondřej Liška, chair of the Czech Green Party, has criticized the media and sent an open letter, signed by more than 200 people, to the chief editors of the outlets that republished the false news. The letter demands the media correct the record. Czech Senator Jaromír Štětina has also called on representatives of the Parliament of the Czech Republic to publicly distance themselves from news server ParlamentníListy.cz, which is not affiliated with that institution.

Gwendolyn Albert, Zdeněk Ryšavý, Zdeněk Ryšavý, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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