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ROMEA holds roundtable on media, extremism and minorities

Prague/Brno, 26.3.2010 17:53, (ROMEA)

The relationship of the media to the issue of extremism and reporting on the Romani minority were the topics of two roundtables held this past Tuesday (in Prague) and Thursday (in Brno) by the ROMEA civic association as part of a project on investigative journalism and civil rights. Leading experts on the issue participated in the seminars as panelists. In addition to Roma from the Czech Republic, journalists from mainstream and specialized media outlets and other participants attended.

Zdeněk Ryšavý, director of Romea, spoke of the purpose of the meeting at the start of the roundtable: “The aim is to improve collaboration between the media, nonprofits and others interested in reporting on extremism, discrimination and minorities, especially the Roma.” One way to improve cooperation is the inclusion of Roma and other “local reporters” in such roundtables who have the opportunity to meet with journalists and talk to them about the most frequently reported information about the life of the Roma and the extremist attacks they face.

Ryšavý told those gathered that the ROMEA association strives to collaborate with majority society media. “Various journalists turn to us and ask us for contacts to people in this area. Whenever something happens we facilitate contact to Roma who might be able to comment on it. On the other hand, we also try to give journalists tips regarding positive articles they could write about Roma, for example, interviews with various successful Roma, information about successful projects, etc. Our effort is to establish the closest, most efficient cooperation possible with the media in order to improve their reporting on extremism, discrimination and minorities, particularly about the Roma.”

Political scientist Jan Charvát spoke at the roundtable about how political extremism is viewed in political science. He also discussed the differences between the academic and the journalistis approaches to the issue of political extremism and the problems that are typical to media coverage of it.

Jan Křeček, a researcher at the Center for Media Studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences at Charles University who teaches in their Media Studies Department and at the College of International and Public Relations spoke at both roundtables. His talk was entitled “Paths to a more socially responsible media”. The talk covered a basic overview of the key areas, topics and concepts that media studies cover in their theoretical investigations into the relationship between the media, ultra-right extremism and minorities in society. Zbyněk Tarant of the League against Anti-Semitism analyzed the iconography, propaganda and fetishism of neo-Nazi initiatives, primarily their self-presentation on the internet.

The Newton Media company was represented at the roundtables by two media analysts, Ivan Vodochodský (in Prague) and Jan Jüptner (in Brno). Those attending were impressed by their precise analysis of the media interest in events on the extreme-right scene. Part of the analysis included a breakdown of the content of articles and contributions so participants could see how much of the reporting was negative, how much was neutral and how much was positive (in relation to extremists there was only a bare minimum of positive media reactions). NEWTON Media is the largest company in the Czech Republic distributing full content from the internet, print newspapers and magazines, radio and television news programs, and wire services. The company also performs classical press monitoring and media analyses.

Jarmila Balážová, the chair of the ROMEA association who is a moderator on Czech Radio 6 and editor-in-chief of the magazine Romano voďi, gave an elaborate presentation on the topic of how the media image of Roma is created. Markus Pape, a well-known human rights activist, journalist and attorney-in-fact for families victimized by ultra-right extremists (such as the family who was the victim of the arson attack in Vítkov) spoke about how the Czech media reports on extremism and discrimination. Journalist and photographer Jiří Salik Sláma analyzed from a practical point of view several examples of photographs and texts that have created the media image of the Roma.

After opening remarks by the panelists, a brief discussion ensued. In addition to invited speakers from nonprofit organizations and Roma from all over the Czech Republic, the discussants included journalists such as Lída Rakušanová of Vltava-Labe Press (which publishes the Deníky daily), Jana Šmídová of Czech Radio 6, and Marta Pilařová of Czech Television in Ostrava. Other media were present, including the Czech Press Agency, Mediafax, the weekly Sedmička, the weekly Respekt and idnes.cz. Members of the following nonprofits attended: Romea, Jekhetani Luma, Czech Helsinki Committee, Romodrom, In Iustitia, the Heinrich Böll Foundation, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, ROS, Europe Roma.CZ, DROM, the League of Human Rights, IQ Roma Service, Life Together, and the Society of Roma in Moravia.

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