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May 27, 2022



Pavel Botoš: Who will stop the use of terms like "cigoši" in the Czech Republic?

18.10.2019 9:18
The non-Romani actor Roman Zach lip-synching to music by the
The non-Romani actor Roman Zach lip-synching to music by the "Gipsy Kings" on the program "Your Face Has a Famous Voice" (Tvoje tvář má známý hlas) on the commercial television station TV Nova in the Czech Republic. (PHOTO: TV NOVA)

On the Facebook social network a public petition was posted a couple of days ago featuring a complaint about the entertainment show "Your Face Has a Famous Voice", episodes of which have generalized about, humiliated, and insulted the Romani minority more than once. The initiator of the petition is the Romany Art Workshop association, which decided to publish it after consulting with some other people.

"During the Saturday prime time slot on the program 'Your Face Has a Famous Voice', the actor Mr Zach, the moderator of the program, and the jurors repeatedly (on 28 September 2019 and on 5 October 2019) used the grossly insulting word 'cigoš, cikán, cikáni' to designate Romani people. We consider this an absolutely unprecedented violation of ethical rules and decent, normal behavior, and the reasons for it are irrelevant. Given the high ratings for the program, we demand the RRTV intervene, adopt an unequivocal standpoint on this issue, and prevent the repetition of such excesses," the petition says.

Other people subsequently began to respond, including those opposed to filing this complaint who believe nothing will be resolved by this petition because in the Czech Republic this is normal behavior. Another person (I just know of one) wrote in defense of the performer on this program, Roman Zach, that he is not a bad guy and that this was just about having fun.

During a longer discussion with that person, he pushed me to reflect more deeply, and at that point I decided not to sign the petition. I made that decision not because I disagree with the complaint or the petition, but because I am actually angry and disappointed with the protagonists of the program and I wanted the petition to be aimed more at the program's producers.

We all know these programs are filmed in advance, so why even broadcast something like this? From our recent history in the Czech Republic, by which I mean the years 2011-2014, we know what the ordinary words of politicians scoring political points by playing the "Roma card" can cause to happen here.

Is all of this meant to continue in perpetuity? Who will stop it?

The President of the Republic is also xenophobic toward Roma minority and adds fuel to the fire with what he makes up about our minority. The Prime Minister says one thing about the Holocaust and Romani people in the evening and denies it the next morning.

Non-Romani people here might be surprised by this, but we Roma and our children also love Czech actors, athletes and singers - we also mourn for them when the Lord God calls them home. I don't know how many of us actually like politicians, but for certain reasons I very much like Zdeněk Škromach, for example, and our current Culture Minister, Lubomír Zaorálek.

Where else does xenophobia appear here? I was personally absolutely disappointed by the moderator of that program, Ondřej Sokol, when he attempted to generalize about Romani people and their housing!

First of all, opinions or personal comments don't belong in an entertainment show that is being broadcast in prime time and followed by thousands of children who might draw the conclusion that it is now "in" to hate Romani people and who might imitate the actors on the program. In the second place, Sokol is an actor who until now has been a favorite of mine in more than one program.

I enjoyed following his performances in the program "Partička", for example. Now it will always remind me of a person who was harboring xenophobia inside him the whole time ... so I'm done with him.

I don't even want to mention Zach, because he has never achieved the fame that the "Gipsy Kings" (whose music he was "performing") have and probably never will, even if he turned up his nose and made his remark that they are "cigoši" with such clear disdain! On another episode, the actor Jakub Kohák also made indecent remarks about the late Věra Bílá, who was imitated by Ivana Chýlková.

In closing, I just want to note that this program is merely the Czech version of a singing show based on the format of the program "Your Face Sounds Familiar", which is based on the Spanish original, "Tu cara me suena". A competition with the same format is also broadcast in Slovakia under the title "Tvoja tvár znie povedome".

Do you believe that in Slovakia, for example, they express hatred of minorities publicly on that program? I follow the Slovak version too and I have yet to hear anything of the kind.

Is it actually the case that this is only "in" here in the Czech Republic? If so, then naturally I will sign the petition making the rounds on Facebook!


Pavel Botoš, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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