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Patrik Banga files charges against racist online contributor

Prague, 25.6.2010 17:04, (ROMEA)

A particular contributor who regularly participates in online discussions through the news server iDNES.cz has begun severely harassing Patrik Banga, an administrator of the server’s blogs and internet discussion boards. Banga, who has been an administrator for more than three years, has seen his share of abusive contributions by now. Even though he is only one of several administrators who erase indecent or racist contributions and manage the blogs, he is the only one to whom a group of evidently disturbed, racist, vulgar contributors have been addressing many “complaints”. These contributors not only malign Banga for censoring them, they frequently abusively curse and threaten him.

One contributor nicknamed Kraxna has crossed the line, and Banga has decided to file criminal charges. He hopes the case will go to trial and result in a fair verdict, setting a precedent to help change internet discussions for the better.

“He’s been writing me e-mails for a long time in which he curses me in racist, vulgar language, calling me a ‘black pig’ and many worse things. Those of us on the editorial staff have let it slide this whole time. I didn’t personally get upset about it until he sent the first of a series of e-mails in which he began threatening to kill my family: ‘What if I disposed of you and your brat (if it is yours), you fucking bloated cripple.’ When he began threatening to murder my children that crossed the line of the usual discussions between administrators and contributors, which can be resentful at times,” Banga says.

The threats and hateful attacks increased to such an extent that after consulting with a lawyer from the company that runs iDNES.cz, MAFRA, Banga decided to file criminal charges against the person using the nickname Kraxna. “We contacted a lawyer who handles such cases through the ROMEA association,” Banga says.

The charges, which were drafted by lawyer František Valeš with the financial support of ROMEA, o. s., essentially say this: "The most recent e-mails from this week contain direct threats to commit grievous bodily harm as well as libelous and offensive content directed against the plaintiff (for example, ‘I’ll gut you!’) and against his children. Kraxna mentions Banga’s son by name, which he must have found out somehow. That e-mail was sent by Kraxna to Banga’s private e-mail address, which has never been publicized. Given the fact that the verbal assault continues to escalate and includes direct threats of violence and personal information about Banga’s family, he is justifiably concerned that Kraxna will carry these threats out. It is evident that the aim of Kraxna’s behavior is to force Banga to stop erasing Kraxna’s contributions from the internet discussion boards at iDNES.cz, and the overtly repeated motive for his targeting Banga is Banga’s Roma ethnicity.” Valeš believes Kraxna has committed the crimes of extortion and violence against a group or individual members of that group.

In the beginning, Patrik Banga was not very hopeful that the criminal charges would result in any action. He was pleasantly surprised to discover the police have taken a genuine interest in the case. Because Kraxna was unaware charges had been filed against him, he continued to harass Banga, enabling the police to follow the course of his actions. “It’s true I’m not the only person Kraxna has harassed. Other discussion board contributors turned to me because they were having the same problem with him,” Banga says. The police have now tracked down the person using the nickname Kraxna and informed him that he is charged with committing violence against a group or individual members of that group.

Police suggested the case be decided by a single judge, but Banga and Valeš appealed to the state prosecutor to let the case go through the usual trial process. “I want this to have an effect, to impact the public, I want this person to come forward and stand trial. That would clearly show that the anonymity of the internet will not keep someone like this safe,” Banga says. Another problem was that the state prosecutor left the racist subtext out of his first version of the arraignment. “I don’t know whether that is because the state prosecutors are not willing to go so far as to come out and say this is racism, or whether the law is so poorly written that the distinction can’t be drawn,” Banga says. He has also raised his objections on that score with the state attorney.

Banga says there is no doubt that Kraxna has committed stalking, the term for persistent harassment. Stalkers focus on a particular person whom they prowl after, harass, bother, threaten, eventually physically attack, and in some cases even murder.

News server Romea.cz has learned that Kraxna is not an adolescent, as one might expect, but a grown man working for a security agency who guards department stores. A source close to the investigation says the man was either unaware that internet anonymity is not 100 %, or was not intelligent enough to properly evaluate the results of his behavior. Patrik Banga has had the same experience with other discussion board participants: “These people often say things anonymously which they might never say in normal life. They don’t realize they can be found.”

Kraxna was almost constantly present online, joining discussions at all hours of the day or night. “I don’t understand it. Many people discuss things on the net from morning till evening. There’s no way they’re getting any work done. If I were their boss, I’d fire them. It would help if firms introduced filters to keep their employees from participating in online discussions during working hours. That would mean only a quarter of the people now discussing things online would be able to participate,” Banga says.

Banga says there are not many abusive, vulgar participants or stalkers of the Kraxna type. Such people constitute a small group, some of whom use multiple identities (nicknames). Their contributions to any discussion are abrasiveness, attacks on those who have different opinions, intolerance, malicious gossip, vulgarity, racism, and xenophobia. “Compared to the number of contributors who behave themselves, of which there are about 50 000 at any given moment, the sample of harassers is completely negligible. However, it is precisely the harassers who are the ones most seen and heard because of their lewdness. Those people are the reason administrators exist,” Banga says.

The criminal charges are coming at the right time, as the harassment of administrators and bloggers on iDNES.cz by stalkers is starting to intensify. As a result, the server recently took the unusual step of tightening the rules for its discussion boards. Violation of the rules results in contributions being erased. While the number of lewd or racist contributions has rapidly fallen as a result, the stalking continues to spread.

“Other stalkers have started writing to me, accusing me of raping little children, or that my family and I rob our neighbors, stuff like that. In their eyes I am synonymous with censorship at iDNES.cz – very few of them know I am only one of those who erase contributions. I actually spend much more time managing the blogs. Some people evidently have the feeling I work 24 hours a day just on erasing their contributions. I asked my brother about it (Radek Banga of the band Gipsy.cz), because he has experienced something similar with stalkers, and he told me it’s the price of fame. Alongside that, contributors like Kraxna are constantly reproaching me for my gipsy origin. I don’t know if they would be this abrasive, this aggressive, if I were gadje [non-Roma],” Banga says.

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