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August 15, 2022



Romani celebrities in Czech Republic with COVID-19 use social media to warn others, but will they be believed?

11.11.2020 7:14
Romani celebrities Monika Bagárová (left) and Igor Kmeťo, Jr (right) in the Czech Republic (2020). (Collage:
Romani celebrities Monika Bagárová (left) and Igor Kmeťo, Jr (right) in the Czech Republic (2020). (Collage:

Celebrities in the Czech Republic who are of Romani origin have become some of the latest victims of the COVID-19 pandemic - the recent death of blogger Jozef Kmeťo shocked Romani social media users, while the popular singer Igor Kmeťo, Jr and the superstar vocalist Monika Bagárová have also become infected. Despite the fact that Kmeťo, Jr is young and in good shape, the course of the disease in his case was not the easiest. 

"I was in hospital for eight days and ran a temperature for 11 days," the singer said in a video posted to Instagram, where he also said he had questioned the reality of COVID-19 before falling ill. "The course of the illness was harder in my case, I felt very bad, everything hurt."  

"People, it's true, the virus is among us, the virus is out in the world and it may be even worse than you believe," the singer said in response to different social media status updates where various people allege the news reporting about the novel coronavirus is overblown. "Think about those who will have a harder course of this illness."

"Think about those who are older. Some people get over this in two or three days, but others will not," the singer said in the video.

"Don't take this lightly, wear facemasks," he exhorted his followers, adding that he had not been paid by anybody to make the video - responding to the fact that some Romani social media users have accused others who have posted about their COVID-19 experiences of doing so for money. The musician Gyulla Banga, for example, published about his experiences with COVID-19 on news server and was subsequently accused of lying and being paid to produce the article he authored. 

As for vocalist Monika Bagárová, she has fortunately experienced a light case of COVID-19. "Unfortunately I, too, am positive for COVID-19," she posted to Facebook.

"I'm not having a difficult time and thank God Ruminka is just coughing every now and again, otherwise she is laughing and still cheerful," Bagárová posted about the state of her health and that of her young daughter. "I was insanely tired during the first days - my head hurt, but I believed it was because I get up more than once in the night to take care of Ruminka, so my body is tired and just needs to rest," the celebrity posted at the end of October, adding that she had also lost her sense of smell and taste. 

Despite these testimonies, many Romani users of social media continue to share disinformation, hoaxes and manipulations about the COVID-19 disease. The subjects most frequently shared by them include downplaying the gravity of the disease; alleging that COVID-19 is a means for big business, especially the pharmaceutical industry, and global elites to achieve malevolent aims; and rejection of preventive measures, i.e., wearing facemasks or the idea of vaccination. 

At the beginning of the crisis another disinformation theme was the discredited allegation that the virus was manmade. Disinformation about testing for the presence of the virus repeatedly recurs among Romani social media users in the Czech Republic as well.

Zdeněk Ryšavý, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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