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May 19, 2022



Performer Jan Bendig declines invitation to join discussion on ROMEA TV, issues social media statement about his TV series

13.4.2021 8:08
Jan Bendig in the video for the song
Jan Bendig in the video for the song "Bella Ciao". (PHOTO:

ROMEA TV has invited the Romani actor and singer Jan Bendig to participate in a discussion program focused on how Romani people are being presented in the media through the series "Ďábelské cikánky" ("Devilish Gypsy Women"), but through his manager, Lukáš Rejmon, Bendig has declined that invitation. In recent days Bendig has been subjected to tough criticism because of the series, the topic of which was raised during a discussion on Romani art and music by the musician Tibor Žida and continued in a commentary for news server by Vojtěch Lavička.  

The producers of ROMEA TV wanted to give Bendig and his manager room to respond, but they have declined the offer and referred the producers to Bendig's social media post about the critiism. "I acknowledge one error, which is that before each episode there should be a warning that it is for viewers age 18 and older. We are working on that for the future videos we are planning. I promise. However, in addition to that, I believe parents pay attention to what their children do and watch and with whom they are communicating. YouTube in particular offers many functions for blocking certain kinds of videos," Bendig has written in response to the criticism that the series, which uses a very vulgar vocabulary, can be easily watched by children. 

In the post, Bendig also reflects further on the criticism that the name of the program uses the derogatory label "cikán". "For me personally, the word 'cigán' is not an insult," he has posted. 

"I do my best not to draw distinctions between Romani people, or gadje [non-Roma] as we love to call them, or Chinese people, etc. For me, all people have one and the same thing in common. We all have hearts, and that's what I look at... whether the person's heart is good or bad... and it's all the same to me what their nationality or skin color is. That's why the word spelled with a 'k' is there. It's not meant to represent Romani people and our community. If it were, we would spell it with a 'g'," Bendig explains.  

According to the actor, addressing the use of the word "cikán" is something petty that shouldn't even be dealt with. "Let's revile and tackle the bigger problems. Nobody will rent to Romani people, nobody will hire them, the radio and television almost never play our music at all, I could go on. However, that is what the existing organizations should be tackling, who are so glad to boast about how they are fighting for us..." Bendig posted to social media, giving as an example how little is presented about Romani people in Czech textbooks.  

News server was the first to report on that issue in September 2020. Despite the fact that research into that subject has been presented to the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs by its volunteer civil society member Tomáš Ščuka and news server reported about it, Bendig is alleging that Romani organizations are not involved with the issue. 

"Why don't the Romani organizations that get such big subsidies for their online festivals from state funds take care of that issue? Believe me, the amounts of money they have received, for example, for festivals that are watched by 100 people could be used to produce thousands of brochures that could be given to each child in the schools, but the state and these organizations, which are exactly the ones who should be fighting for this, are incapable of doing that. Instead, they do absurd things," Bendig posted, apparently referencing the most recent celebrations of 8 April organized by ARA ART, during which the criticism of Bendig's TV series was voiced.

Bendig then goes on to offer financing and room to promote such brochures and textbooks through his social media profiles. He also reminds his followers that his songs feature lyrics in Romanes that are then sung not just by Romani people, but also by his non-Romani fans.

"For more than five years I have been fighting very hard for at least my own Czech-Romani music to be shown on television, and finally we are succeeding, we've even been winning the hit parade on ÓČKO CHART for the last three weeks with a Romani song. These are small steps, but I, too, am fighting. I would be glad if you would join me in the fight," Bendig closes his social media post, adding that he will not be making further statements on the issue. 

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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