US State Department says Czech Republic is grappling with anti-Roma hatred, including from the President
The Czech Republic continues to grapple with hate speech against Romani people, police corruption and prisons that are overcrowded. Those are the findings of the annual report on the state of human rights in the world produced by the US State Department.
The 26-page section of the document dedicated to the Czech Republic mentions the controversial invective of Czech President Miloš Zeman against journalists and Roma. It categorizes the Czech Republic as a parliamentary democracy that continues to hold free elections.
The State Department says hate speech against Romani people is a problem, however, and also states that according to observers, the Czech Police do not take such cases seriously enough. The document also mentions several cases of persons of African and Asian origin being targeted with hate.
In the case of Romani people, the US report finds that this minority, which numbers about 300 000 people in the Czech Republic, is barely involved in the country's political life. "There are no Romani MPs, ministers, or Supreme Court justices. Two Romani men ran unsuccessful campaigns during the Senate elections. There were 13 Romani candidates elected to local assemblies," the US assessment reads.
The report also mentions the case of Jaroslav Staník, the former secretary to the "Freedom and Direct Democracy of Tomio Okamura" movement (SPD), who made hateful remarks against Jews, LGBT people Roma in October 2017 in a restaurant on the grounds of the lower house, for which he has been indicted. The report also mentions the hateful remarks of Czech President Miloš Zeman, who deceptively alleged that "90 %" of Romani people in the country do not work.
"Roma are the most frequent target of hate speech on the [Czech-language] Internet," the report states. The State Department traditionally also follows the freedom of the press in each country.
"Independent media are active and express a broad range of perspectives," the report says of the Czech media scene. It also mentions the controversial ties between Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and the media outlets he owns and has put into a trust, as well as Zeman's invective against journalists.
In the case of Zeman, the report also reminds readers of his remarks in 2017 when he told Russian President Vladimir Putin that there are too many journalists who need to be "annihilated". The report also mentions the mock-up of a machine gun given to Zeman in the town of Nepomuk that same year which held a bottle of Becherovka liqueur instead of a magazine and was inscribed with the message "For the journalists".
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