Podraný family seeks legal advice regarding Czech Senator Liana Janáčková
As Romea.cz has already reported, Janáčková has issued a statement attacking the Podraný family. She revealed personal information about them to which she was privy and claimed the family wants to leave the Czech Republic: “The citizens of Bedřiška have informed me that during this visit by the Podraný family members living in England, the family as a whole discussed moving to either England or Canada. They are said to have been in need of proof that they are discriminated against in the Czech Republic.” Media then reported on her statement, saying Janáčková had either indicated or said the family had themselves instigated the attack.
Kumar Vishwanathan of the Life Together association told Romea.cz that Janáčková‘s statement promotes a stereotype which has become anchored in people’s minds, namely, that the Roma themselves are to blame for everything that happens to them – or even that attacks against them are in fact committed by them. His association assists Roma in Ostrava and employs several of them. “I happened to be there when the Podraný family learned about Janáčková‘s statement from journalists who contacted them. Janáčková has offended them and they are very hurt. They are not planning to leave the Czech Republic as she implies. They asked me to find them a lawyer so they can defend themselves,” Vishwanathan said.
ROMEA has commissioned a legal analysis of Janáčková’s statement; according to this analysis, she had no right to publicize certain information about the Podraný family. Lawyer František Valeš, who has long been involved in human rights protection, considers her statement to be completely self-evidently in violation of the law on the protection of personal information. In her statement, the senator reveals information which must be considered the victims’ personal data. Moreover, the information has the potential to harm the victims and its revelation violates their personal and private lives. “This particularly concerns the claims regarding the family’s alleged debts, the reasons they were assigned housing in the Bedřiška settlement, and the information regarding the ongoing court proceedings. The senator has access to this information thanks to her position as mayor of her district, and therefore she should be considered a processer or manager of personal information in the legal sense. Publication of this information is a clear violation of her obligations in that role. The senator’s completely unsubstantiated speculations regarding the family’s intention to leave the Czech Republic with respect to the chain of events under discussion border, in my opinion, on slander,” said František Valeš.
Kumar Vishwanathan agrees: “Janáčková is abusing her position. This is a cowardly move on her part – and it is not the first time she has hidden behind her immunity from prosecution in her role as Senator.” Vishwanathan believes the revelation of the victims’ personal information and the statements Janáčková has made in the past may have an intimidating effect in the future. “The people living at Bedřiška are afraid of her already. They would like to go public with their opinion of her, but they are afraid she would harm them as she has the Podraný family.”
In the Vítkov arson case, town leaders there also circulated information and speculations Janáčková-style. However, human rights defenders eventually got them to stop by successfully convincing the town hall that their actions were harming the Roma, the town leadership, and the overall atmosphere in society.
Ivan Veselý, Vice-Chair of the Czech Government Council for Roma Community Affairs, told Romea.cz that “what Ms Janáčková has been doing all these years would be unacceptable in any decent society. She is basically prostituting herself for the publicity.” Veselý will request a session of the council be convened to discuss the matter.
It was Janáčková who turned the Bedřiška settlement into a Roma ghetto. In her view, Roma should not live among majority-society people. On 15 August 2006, at a public meeting of the housing department of the “Mariánské Hory a Hulváky” district, she made racist statements while reviewing complaints regarding the Roma who had been moved there from elsewhere in Ostrava. “I understand this is unfair to you, but I really do not have anywhere else to put those Gypsies, I should just get some dynamite and blow them up…,” Janáčková said at that time. Her colleague, then-Vice Mayor Jiří Jezerský, said he would solve the problem of social exclusion as follows: “Give me a gun license and permission to shoot and I’ll go do it.” “I do not agree with any integration of Gypsies in our district – unfortunately, I am a racist. We chose Bedřiška so that’s where they will be, with a high electric fence for all I care – I’ll tell the whole world that,” Janáčková said at another point in the meeting.
The “Mariánské Hory a Hulváky” district has also recently closed an elementary school, one of only a handful in the country able to successfully educate and integrate Czech and Romani children. The move was completely in the spirit of Janáčková’s declarations.
According to the Senate’s web page, Janáčková is a member of the Sub-Committee for Pre-school, Elementary and Middle School Education (part of the Committee for Education, Science, Culture, Human Rights and Petitions), a certifier and member of the Permanent Senate Commission on the Media, a member of the Permanent Delegation of the Parliament of the Czech Republic to the Representation of the European Union (the Temporary Assembly for European Security and Defense) and a member of the ODS party’s Senate club. Janáčková has also been a direct member of the Senate Committee for Human Rights. During her membership there she was a rapporteur on many materials backed by that committee, such as the Concluding Recommendations of the UN Human Rights Committee, the body which monitors the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
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