Open letter to Czech Television: Talk show features anti-Roma bias, racist untruths
A complaint has been sent to the board of Czech Television about Michaela Jílková, the moderator of its talk show program "Máte slovo" ("You Have the Floor"), specifically concerning a recent episode on the topic of Romani people and ultra-right extremism. The open letter points to her lack of professionalism, her inability to become better acquainted with the topics her program covers, and the biased shift against Romani people that she caused in a recent discussion through her inability to perform her role as moderator without sensationalizing the topic at hand.
This is not the first time Jílková has been criticized on news server Romea.cz. She was previously criticized for her sensationalistic, tabloid approach, her bias against Romani people, and her total incompetence as a moderator over an episode of the program covering anti-Romani unrest in the Šluknov district.
Speaking in an interview with news server Romea.cz, the chair of the board of Czech Television, Milan Uhde, has also criticized Jílková in the past for her "innovative" approach to moderating the talk show. Others who would like to sign the open letter can send their name, surname, profession and the town where they live to email@example.com.
The full translation of the open letter is as follows:
Dear Czech Television Board, Dear Mr Milan Uhde:
It has been a month since a complaint was sent to you by Apolena Rychlíková concerning the reporting on an anti-Romani march performed by the "News in the Regions" (Události v regionech) program on 24 August 2013. We are now turning to you with another complaint about the "You Have the Floor" (Máte slovo) program, once again on the topic of anti-Romani marches, which was broadcast on 19 September 2013 at 21:00.
This particular program is in and of itself very controversial, and Ms Jílková's behavior is well-known from her previous programs on other television stations that have been described as tabloid programs. The problem, however, is that her current program is being broadcast by public broadcaster Czech Television, and the fees for this public service are paid by all licensees in the country irrespective of nationality.
This is why it is socially dangerous and unacceptable for the moderator of such a program to permit errors and generalizations about a particular ethnic group and the negative attributes they allegedly all have in common as an excuse for the marches targeting members of this group that have been underway throughout the country. Paradoxically, this episode of the program ultimately made only a passing reference to the marches it was supposed to discuss.
This episode of the program was very poorly managed from the very beginning when the "representatives of the opposing parties" were being selected. For reasons that remain incomprehensible, air time was given to biased, racist, unproven and unqualified opinions and untruths from the mouths of people making false statements about members of the Romani community, some of whom even went so far as to mention that they had participated in the recent anti-Romani marches.
For example, a pensioner on disability who was invited to participate in the program claimed that after the fall of communism, Romani people not only stopped working and went on welfare, but are able to draw benefits which she believes are higher for Romani people and lower for non-Roma just because Romani people allegedly know how to "shout more loudly". This information is untrue.
The moderator, unfortunately, did not intervene when this claim was made, nor did she ever correct this false statement - [Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion Director] Mr Šimáček, also a guest on the program, had to do this. There were several such incidents, and the moderator's attempt at the close of the program to say something vaguely along the lines of "there are also inadaptable citizens among non-Romani people" was not enough to make up for the other imbalances.
The result of her performance as moderator was that the Romani guests present, members of an ethnic group that has been persecuted and victimized for centuries, found themselves in the role of "unconvicted criminals" who had to defend themselves against the verbal invective of their dominant oppressors. The program was a trial in the court of public opinion, broadcast live, that legitimized antigypsyism in the public arena.
In the 21st century, 70 years after the horrors of the Roma Holocaust, such programs have no place in the offerings of public broadcaster Czech Television. We believe the board of Czech Television will review our complaint and weigh the reasons as to why Czech Television is repeatedly reporting on these serious, society-wide phenomena (in programs as different from one another as the news and a talk show) in such a misleading way. This reporting places Romani people in the role of culprits and is not contributing toward resolving this ongoing, untenable situation.
Mgr. Lucie Fremlová and MgA.Ivanka Mariposa Čonková
The following signatories endorse this letter:
1. Gwendolyn Albert, independent consultant, Imperial Beach, California, USA
2. Jana Kabeláčová, caregiver and massage therapist, Brno, Czech Republic
3. Michal Miko, Slovo 21, Prague, Czech Republic
4. Jan Dunka, teaching assistant, Leicester, Great Britain
5. Petra Gelbart, university instructor, New York City, New York, USA
6. William Bila, manager, Allianz, Paris, France
7. Jolana Novotná, translator, Tišnov, Czech Republic
8. Sylva Ficová, translator, Brno, Czech Republic
9. Jolana Navrátilová, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic
10. Ladislav Baláž, Europe Roma International, London, Great Britain
11. Miroslav Kováč, chair, o.s. Forum CZ, Louny, Czech Republic
12. Helena Krištofová, Romani advisor, Brno, Czech Republic
13. Tamara Moyzes, curator, Prague, Czech Republic
14. Naděžda Vaňová Kováčová
15. Marcela Adamová, community worker, Glasgow, Scotland, Great Britain
16. Pavel Botoš, Halifax Roma Group, Halifax, Great Britain
17. Michael Daduč, communit worker, Derby, Great Britain
18. Amaya Tomanová, self-employed, Prague, Czech Republic
19. Zuzana Brejcha, filmmaker, Vienna, Austria
20. Ingrid Kosová, politician, Zvolen, Slovakia
21. Anna Poláková, Prague, Czech Republic
22. Marek Polák, Prague, Czech Republic
23. Katarina Kocurová, Bratislava, Slovakia
24. Miroslav Brož, občanské sdružení Konexe, Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic
25. Bc. Antonie Burianská, teacher, Second Vice-Chair, Equal Opportunities Party, Vítkov, Czech Republic
26. Markus Pape, political commentator, Prague, Czech Republic
27. Irena Moudrá Wünschová, physician, Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic
28. PhDr. Miroslav Hudec, psychologist, Česká Lípa, Czech Republic
29. Štefan Tišer, chair Equal Opportunities Party, Plzeň, Czech Republic
30. Petra Mrtková, physician, Havlíčkův Brod, Czech Republic
31. Jiřina Miková, Wolverhampton, Great Britain
32. Mgr. Vendula Fremlová, Ph.D, Petrovice u Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic
33. Lucie Fremlová, Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic
34. Bohdan Bláhovec, director, Prague, Czech Republic
35. Štěpánka Bláhovcová, artist, Prague, Czech Republic
36. Marcela Baloghová,social worker, Kadaň, Czech Republic
37. Čeněk Růžička, chair, Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust in the Czech Republic, Prague, Czech Republic
38. Iveta Bílková, art restorer, Liberec, Czech Republic
39. Alois Horvath, musician, Brisbane, Australia
40. František Kostlán, editor/reporter, Romea.cz, Prague, Czech Republic
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