Former Czech Green Party candidate owns tabloid publishing anti-Roma articles
"If Gypsies beat up a pub owner, I'll write six articles about it and keep on writing them... I'll say it's a Rom no matter what the cost. If whites beat up a white guy, or if a white guy beats up a Rom... then no," the editor-in-chief of the tabloid news server Extra.cz, Pavel Novotný, says of his practices in the recent Czech documentary film "Tabloid Workers" ("Dělníci bulváru").
Jan Barta, the owner of news server Extra.cz, which publishes untruthful articles that unleash hatred against Romani people and makes big profits in the process, has run as a Green Party (Strana zelených - SZ) candidate in the past. According to Jan Žáček, the SZ party's press spokesperson, Barta does not interfere with the editorial content of the media outlet he owns.
News server Romea.cz has written a great deal about media manipulation in the Czech Republic, reproaching media outlets for their unethical and unprofessional conduct when reporting about Romani people. One of our main points is that the media are divorced from reality and are adapting their news reporting to meet the (real or imagined) demands of their listeners, readers and viewers.
The driving force behind this lack of ethical behavior is a desire for the greatest possible profits irrespective of what is essential to the craft and mission of journalism. Our point has now been confirmed by the editor-in-chief of one of the most-read tabloids in the Czech Republic.
Novotný has admitted that his publication intentionally emphasizes Romani ethnicity in its reporting. He says the word "Rom", when used in a negative connotation, increases readership and therefore profits.
The editor makes the claim in a documentary film by Vít Klusák, "Tabloid Workers" ("Dělníci bulváru"), which has been broadcast by Czech Television as part of its "Czech Journal" (Český žurnál) series. The majority shareholder of news server Extra.cz is Jan Barta, who ran for the lower house in 2013 in 33rd place on the Green Party candidate list.
"Jan Barta, according to our information, does not interfere editorially with the content of the media outlet he owns," Jan Žáček, the SZ press spokesperson, told Romea.cz. "Barta personally supported the combined efforts of the SZ and the Equal Opportunities Party during the lower house elections and the efforts of the SZ to involve Romani people in civic and political life. That interest is one of the main reasons he decided to run for the SZ for the lower house. We are not yet directly collaborating with Mr Barta on the campaign to the European Parliament, but we do not rule out cooperating with him in future. The Green Party condemns all forms of stereotyping on the basis of origin, religious affiliation, or sex and has done so for a very long time."
In an interview for news server iDNES.cz, Barta himself said the following of Extra.cz: "I want it to make money. The basis of that is to win an organic readership and I see we are succeeding and that it's rising in a straight line. Every month we have 10 000 more daily visitors. In October, thanks to the election and political ads, we reported record sales."
Editor Novotný has been quoted previously on the harmful effects of tabloid journalism on the celebrities whose lives it targets. When Barta was asked whether an ethical dimension of the tabloid business even exists for him, he responded: "Naturally I think about it. As far as the business, the enterprise, that's supposed to maximize its revenues, not build playgrounds and schools. As for what I take out of the business for myself, I handle it in exactly the opposite way. It's not possible to mix the two."
In "Tabloid Workers" ("Dělníci bulváru"), Novotný expresses himself in a carefree, open way that involves a certain degree of scorn for his readers. He claims to enjoy such power that he could get away with anything, even breaking the law.
"We are a nation of racists, absolutely a nation of racists, and we loathe Gypsies. The petty Czechs just loathe them. If Gypsies beat up a pub owner, I'll write six articles about it and keep on writing them... I'll say it's a Rom no matter what the cost. If whites beat up a white guy, or if a white guy beats up a Rom... then no. If a Rom beats someone up, the petty Czechs shit themselves, so if Roma play a role in a story, I go for it. The words 'Facebook' and 'Rom' increase readership by as much as one-fourth. We're the ones that taught this to TV NOVA, to iDNES.cz, to all of them. The demand is terrific, 1 700 000 people want to read a tabloid every day," Novotný says in the documentary film.
This approach by Extra.cz toward reporting on Romani people is confirmed by the publication's headlines and subject matter - one example is "How the Roma rampage elsewhere in Europe: In Paris they prefer to steal at ATMs." In the documentary, Novotný claims that Extra.cz always reports the truth, but in reality the media outlet takes no notice of it.
For example, in the article "Slovak Roma terrorizing British town of Sheffield! Reportedly eating cats and selling their own children", Extra.cz wrote: "Police officers also have a wealth of experience with the Roma community. Cases are known of Romani immigrants allegedly doing their best to sell a child for 250 pounds (approximately CZK 8 000) and complaints are also multiplying that Romani people are eating cats. Police say none of these complaints have been confirmed. Yet."
That word, "yet", has no business being used in news reporting, as it predicts or presumes that something has actually happened for which evidence is about to appear. News reporting is supposed to inform the reader of what is actually happening, what journalists really succeeded in finding out, not to make forecasts - something might have actually taken place differently than it seems to a reporter at a certain moment in time because the reporter does not have enough relevant information.
In that particular report the editors of Extra.cz released some of the news reported by the Czech News Agency, namely, that the British police "emphasized that they have thoroughly investigated the speculation regarding the sale of a child but found no evidence that any child in the Page Hall area has disappeared. According to the police spokesperson, such speculation could have been a 'deplorable joke.' "
In their reporting, Extra.cz left out that information. They did not report the most essential thing (that no trafficking in a child was confirmed) in order to accommodate the "petty Czech racists" (to use editor Novotný's words) who read Extra.cz.
In the article "Attack in Krásné Březno: Assaulted 16-year-old boy fears he has hepatitis!", Extra.cz and other media outlets published the claims of just one party to an incident as the truth in order to emphasize the supposed treachery of a Romani man who allegedly assaulted a "white" boy, Dušan S. It was later determined that everything took place completely differently, as has been ascertained for similar articles published throughout the Czech media many times - other media outlets here, including the allegedly non-tabloid ones, do not shy away from the methods used by Extra.cz.
"An investigation by police officers in Krásné Březno determined that Dušan S. is not the innocent he is pretending to be and he is said to have initiated the assault through his own behavior. Deník has learned that the socially vulnerable man is currently serving a sentence for a property crime," news server Deník.cz was ultimately forced to write as a follow-up. That daily news outlet first unleashed the entire distasteful case through an article of its own that was full of untruths.
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