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ROMEA report on Czech antigypsyism, media, politics and the lives of impoverished Roma in 2012

Prague, 15.10.2013 21:19, (ROMEA)
--ilustrační foto--
--ilustrační foto--

The ROMEA civic association has decided to publish its first-ever report on the state of the Romani minority in the Czech Republic due to the danger of increasingly direct antigypsyism, extremism and racism in the country. The report primarily covers the year 2012 and part of 2013.

We have focused on the following topics:

  • Deterioration of the societal atmosphere in the Czech Republic and Europe
  • Antigypsyism, extremism and racism in the Czech Republic
  • Politicians - growth of antigypsyism, populism and repressive measures
  • Media - anti-Romani tendentiousness and the methods that facilitate it; fabricated cases
  • The lives of impoverished Romani people

One of the authors of this report, František Kostlán, is also vice-chair of the Czech Helsinki Committee (Český helsinský výbor - ČHV). This report overlaps to a certain extent with the ČHV Report on the State of Human Rights in the Czech Republic 2012 (Zpráva o stavu lidských práv v ČR za rok 2012). Romea is endeavoring to describe the topic of the Romani minority in more detail and in a more integrated fashion. This report focuses solely on those aspects of human rights that are of the greatest concern to the largest minority in Czech society, the Roma.

DOCUMENT

Racism is the cause

Our experience shows that an essential cause behind the rising hatred for this minority is not the behavior or lifestyle of Romani people, but latent racism that is rising to the surface as life in Czech society becomes increasingly frustrating. Proof of this is the fact that ordinary people are joining anti-Romani demonstrations in larger numbers than ever before, people who are not bothered by the racist slogans shouted during these marches and their fundamentally violent nature.

Problems in coexistence here have existed since antiquity, but racism (mainly its narrow, antigypsyist variety) has only gained unprecedented strength throughout all of society in recent years. Racists and other right-wing extremists need this internal enemy, and the Roma are ideal to play this “role”. They are complacent, the media takes no interest in their opinions, and politicians even from democratic parties ostracize them in order to score political points. If the racists “didn’t have the Roma”, then we would see this role of internal enemy being played today much more strongly than ever before by immigrants, Jewish people, political opponents, sexual minorities, or some other group.

How to produce hatred

Hatred against Romni people is being inspired using tools that would do the secret service of a totalitarian regime proud. Various false news reports (hoaxes), inventions and lies are making the rounds on the internet. Once the current rumors have been refuted, new disinformation is disseminated once more with fanatical assiduousness.  

Some of the more marginal media outlets have set themselves the task of inspiring hatred of Romani people and are using dirty methods in the form of either outright lies or "appropriately" presented information. Last year (and even this year) the mainstream media most often used the method of reporting a "sole source of truth". Anyone who claimed to have been assaulted by Romani people found almost the entire Czech media scene at his or her disposal, led by private television stations. These media outlets broadcast one-sided claims as truth without giving room for any of the other parties involved to make statements, and without determining how a particular matter had actually unfolded. In an appendix to the report we present examples of "news" consisting of either total nonsense or "information" that no one bothered to verify.    

Poverty goes by the wayside

The media and society are no longer interested in impoverished Romani people or impoverished people in general. These people are excluded not only in a social sense, but also are excluded from our individual and collective awareness. The only interest they sometimes receive is when demonstrations, marches and other violent events directly target them. 

Many of the most impoverished people live in residential hotels where their living conditions are often worse than if they were doing time in prison. Most municipal politicians are indifferent to how their most impoverished citizens live and often support the opening or the preservation of gaming rooms on their territories, thereby contributing to the debt trap in which a high percentage of impoverished people find themselves. 

Because of the vicious circle of indebtedness, petty crime and prostitution rises in socially excluded localities. Because of the hopelessness and total lack of prospects, drug use and gambling rises there as well.

According to various indicators, all of this is sometimes accompanied by official corruption as well. The Czech Government, under the leadership of former PM Petr Nečas, did not start taking an interest in this issue until this year.

The Regional Development Ministry recently said it wanted to replace the Czech Republic's missing law on social housing with a promulgation that residential hotels should be considered social housing. The Regional Development Minister later agreed that a law on social housing should be drafted, but had only the vaguest notion of what it might look like, as it is to be drafted by the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry. The fall of the Nečas government has postponed the solving of this problem.

Populism and repression

An increasing number of both municipal and parliamentary politicians are making populist, racist or xenophobic statements without paying any price for this behavior. For the most part, no one even responds to these remarks - not democratic politicians, not people from nonprofit organizations - while media outlets promote these statements.

Politicians' populism and racism is becoming an ordinary component of the public discourse, which we consider to be a very dangerous trend. An appendix to the report gives examples of these statements.

Representatives of the Czech Republic and of its towns and villages (Krupka, Litvínov, etc.), are choosing repressive methods of governance more and more frequently. As an example, consider the law through which towns and villages have the opportunity to ban people from their territory for up to three months who repeatedly commit a certain set of misdemeanors.

Activity of the ultra-right

Even though the number of events held by ultra-right extremists fell in 2012, this turned out to have been the calm before the storm. Fascistic, neo-Nazi and ultraconservative fighting units have been preparing and are preparing for the many elections the Czech Republic now faces – to the Chamber of Deputies (early elections to the lower house), the European Parliament, the Senate, and town or village councils. This was confirmed by the anti-Romani crusades launched during 2013 in České Budějovice, Duchcov, Ostrava, Vítkov and elsewhere, during which the extremists waged their election campaign.   

The ultra-right, due to the existing frustrations and the skill with which it has managed to exploit them, has succeeded in enhancing its instrumentality in the political arena. While its brutal violence still continues to deter many people from joining it (although fewer are deterred as time goes on), the ideas espoused by the intellectuals of D.O.S.T. and the anti-Romani invective used by the DSSS leaders is finding a sympathetic ear among the sharply rising number of frustrated people.

DOCUMENT

ROMEA, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Extremism, Média, Politika, ROMEA, Czech republic, Document, news, Racism, Roma



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