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January 18, 2022



Czech TV response to critique of the term "inadaptables": "Gypsies work at Czech Television"

Prague, 30.11.2011 18:36, (ROMEA)

"Gypsies work at Czech Television. One of them is even a news anchor." Those two sentences are part of a letter Czech Television's legal department has sent in response to a complaint filed with the country's media oversight board by Anna Šabatová and Petr Uhl. The letter, written by Michal Heldenburg, the department's acting director, also includes a peculiar analysis of the expression "inadaptables", which sparked the complaint in the first place.

Šabatová and Uhl asked the Czech Council on Radio and Television Broadcasting (Rada pro rozhlasové a televizní vysílání - RRTV) to investigate the fact that for the past several weeks, radio and television media outlets, including the public broadcaster, have been frequently using, on a daily basis, the derogatory term "inadaptables" to refer to part of the population. Both the RRTV and Czech Television's legal department have rejected the request.

In their complaint, Šabatová and Uhl write: "This term is being used by anchors reading the news without distancing themselves from it. It is being used as if it were a neutral designation. In the context of the current debate about the unrest in the Šluknov foothills, it is reasonable to assume that the term 'inadaptables' (it is the plural that is principally used) is referring to Romani residents living in great poverty in excluded localities. We are convinced that this label fulfills the function of a key concept in anti-Gypsy, prejudicial discourse. Czech Television and other media, by uncritically using this concept, are contributing in a fundamental way to the stigmatizing of Romani people and to the reproduction and strengthening of prejudice against them."

Šabatová and Uhl decided to raise these concerns in the hope of sparking a public debate about the use of the expression 'inadaptables'. In their view, especially when used together with other expressions, this term often rises to the level of "defamation of a group of people because of their actual or perceived race and their perceived membership in an ethnic group, or of incitement to hatred of such a group as per Sections 355 and 356 of the Penal Code, as well as other felonies."

News server requested copies of the responses to the original complaint, which is available (in Czech only) at . The response from the RRTV is available here (in Czech only): , and the response from Czech Television is available here (in Czech only): .

RRTV chair Kateřina Kalistová responded to the complaint by saying the Council does not believe any laws have been "explicity" broken by the use of the term. The RRTV did, however, pass the complaint on to Czech Television's board and to the Association of Television Organizations (Asociace televizních organizací - ATO) and asked those institutions for their perspectives on the issue.

Kalistová also explained RRTV's approach toward the concept of "inadaptables". In her view, the term "in and of itself is essentially not neutral. On the contrary, its meaning refers to a sort of people who cannot or do not want to live according to generally recognized societal rules. People should be very cautious about the use of this concept in relation to Romani people and the events in the north of Bohemia - it should not become the word ordinarily used to refer to all of the Romani people living there, since such a label does just support more prejudice and potentially even hatred."

Michal Heldenburg, acting director of Czech Television's legal department, responded on the broadcaster's behalf, writing that Czech Television protests against the allegations in the complaint and disagrees that it has been contributing to the stigmatization of Romani people or to reproducing and strengthening prejudice against them. Czech Television also protests being linked to any anti-Gypsy, prejudicial discourse.

"Gypsies work at Czech Television. One of them is even a news anchor. Isn't that a concrete example of breaking down such stereotypes?" Heldenburg's letter literally reads.

"We consider charges of defamation against a group or a people to be a very serious matter. In our view, since those charges are not further specified in the context of this 'motion', which just seems to be some sort of outcry, Czech Television will not respond to them," Heldenburg writes.

As for the term "inadaptables", Heldenburg writes the following: "Essentially, anyone who does not obey the laws of the land, who does not behave according to the generally recognized rules, can be labeled that way; it can be any minority incapable of or unwilling to assimilate into the majority society. There is nothing racist about it. Human society functions in such a way that minorities assimilate into the majority. Anyone who doesn't understand this is an inadaptable, irrespective of ethnic origin or skin color."

Petr Uhl considers this response incompatible with the fundamental European approach towards different groups of people. "I'm talking about the treatment of any group here, not just of Romani people. I attribute this anti-social, inhuman behavior to the legacy of the 40 years of our history prior to November 1989. The environment here was similar after the Second World War, and intolerance of entire groups of the population at that time led to obvious injustices," Uhl told news server

František Kostlán, Gwendolyn Albert, František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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