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Designer of Czech-Roma flag options protests absurd fine

Prague, 2.1.2014 21:48, (ROMEA)
Double standard in the Czech Republic?  On the left, flags for which a Slovak artist has been fined, on the right, dozens of people break the same law with impunity.
Double standard in the Czech Republic? On the left, flags for which a Slovak artist has been fined, on the right, dozens of people break the same law with impunity.

Slovak artist Tomáš Rafa is protesting against a fine levied against him by the Administrative Division of the Prague 7 Municipal Department for his creation of designs for a Czech-Roma flag. Rafa has filed an objection against the decision, which suspends the proceedings.

Martin Vokuš, spokesperson for Prague 7, has told the Czech News Agency that the fine will not take effect until the next decision on the artist's objections is reached. The exhibition where the designs for a Czech-Roma flag were displayed, "Selection Procedure for Czech-Roma Flag" ("Výběrové řízení na česko-romskou vlajku") took place last summer in Prague's outdoor Artwall Gallery on the embankment of the Vltava river.

According to the authors of the project, the exhibition showed that Romani people are also Czechs and Bohemia is their home. A criminal complaint against the project organizers was filed by representatives of the right-wing extremist Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS).

The DSSS believes the authors broke the law on the use of the state symbols of the Czech Republic. That law states that no inscriptions or symbols are to be positioned on the state flag.

Sports fans in the Czech Republic evidently have a lot to look forward to if that is the case (see photo above). Police commissioned an expert evaluation in response to the complaint which found that the artist has broken the law. 

The violation is not a felony, just a misdemeanor. Police therefore sent a motion to the Prague 7 Municipal Department and its Administrative Division began a misdemeanor proceedings against the artist.

Rafa was found guilty of having allegedly broken the law by depicting three flags. News server Romea.cz was the first to report that the local authority has fined him. 

Vokuš said the fine is toward the lower end of the scale established by law. He did not want to specify how much the fine was for, referencing the fact that the misdemeanor proceeding is not open to the public.

The Czech News Agency has reported that the fine was for CZK 2 000. Rafa says no state symbols were damaged or disparaged in the exhibit.

"I have long followed the growing hatred of national minorities and warned against it in my artwork. It is sad that instead of addressing that state of affairs, the state bodies are focused on prosecuting my activity," he said.  

Gallery representatives said in a press release that they had learned of the criminal complaint shortly after the exhibit opened. "We relied on our judgment of the social benefit of the exhibition, given that its aim was to promote the idea of tolerance for all nationalities. The local authority's decision shocked us. We are convinced that state bodies should not be accommodating these efforts to terrorize artists criticizing racism in Czech society," they said.  

According to Vokuš, the Administrative Division, which is staffed by members of the state administration, had no choice but to review the police motion. Critics of the local authority's decision say the same law is frequently broken by sports fans who write the names of their towns, for example, on the state flag during competitions.  

Vokuš said Prague 7 has never handled such a case before. "If such a motion were to be filed against a similar matter, the relevant misdemeanor body will review it," he said.  

ryz, ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Tags:  

Česko-romská vlajka, DSSS, Praha, Racism, Roma



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