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Kocáb to address the fight against extremism and the "muzzle law"

Prague, 12.5.2009 12:22, (ROMEA)

Czech Human Rights and Minorities Minister Michael Kocáb (for the Green Party), the only member of the Topolánek cabinet to continue on in the new cabinet of Czech PM Jan Fischer, will focus particularly on the fight against extremism. He will also focus on the so-called "muzzle law", Fischer told journalists today after meeting with Kocáb in Prague.

"The agenda he is responsible for is very extensive. I would like to underline the priority that we have to tackle in the near period, and that is that the government takes an active, energetic stand on extremism and against what we have been witnessing in Czech towns and villages, I personally have zero tolerance for such speeches," Fischer declared.

Extremist activity aimed primarily against the Roma minority has risen in recent months. A Roma family became victims of a brutal arson attack in April in Vítkov u Opavy. Unknown perpetrators threw Molotov cocktails into their small house; three people suffered burn injuries. A two-year-old girl suffered burns over most of her body and is fighting for her life in hospital.

Fischer said that even though his government will not be able to fully systemically solve the growing extremism and tension between right-wing extremists and the Roma, it would make it clear that it is not indifferent to the issue. "This is a matter for good coordination between Minister Kocáb and the other ministries, and I will also be personally engaged in this matter, for good reason," Fischer said.

"It will never stop totally, but we can maximally suppress it, and the main thing we can do is to say we are focusing on it, that it is not all the same to us, and that we are willing to deploy all of our strength towards ameliorating this problem," was how Kocáb summarized his position on extremism.

Fischer also intends to make use of Kocáb's assistance in creating the government's stance on the so-called "muzzle law". Editors of several print and electronic media outlets in the country sent a joint letter to them last week requesting amendment of a controversial legal norm.

New legislation bans the publication of data which could lead to determining the identity of a crime victim younger than 18 years of age; the ban also extends to adults who are the victims of violent crimes. The Czech parliament also added a ban on publishing information from police wiretapping to the original bill.

The law has made it to the floor of the European Parliament. A German MEP has raised the "muzzle law" issue with the Commission and the Council of the EU. The media have been protesting against the regulations from the very beginning.

"I believe this matter is a real problem," Fischer said. Prior to negotiating the government's stance on the "muzzle law", he and Kocáb will listen to the point of view of those who sent the letter. "I believe there is a need for more intensive communication here and both Minister Kocáb and I are open to that," he said.

Gwendolyn Albert, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Czech republic, Michael Kocáb



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