Slovak media depict Roma stereotypically and often anonymously
They are dependent on state aid, impoverished, and uneducated, they commit crime more often than members of the majority part of society, and they have many children. That is what Romani people in Slovakia often look like through the eyes of the majority, and several media outlets are contributing to this stereotypical image.
These findings have been confirmed by an analysis of media in Slovakia produced by the Romano kher (Roma House) civic association. The work was done in collaboration with the NEWTON Media company.
Tabloids mainly exploit prejudices and stereotypes
From the almost 900 media pieces analyzed, it can be seen that some journalists continue to view Romani people as a separate group, not as a component of Slovak society. This is demonstrated by journalists' approaches toward those they interview and their choices of when to mention ethnicity in their pieces.
"Even though human rights defenders have been warning journalists to avoid unnecessarily emphasizing ethnicity, pieces are still published in which reporters do not follow that rule. The editors of tabloids in particular are aware that the idea of 'Rom' in the headline sells," said Agnes Horváthová, the appointed representative of Roma House.
Expert opinions of the media analysis
Despite recent improvements in the coverage of Romani topics by media in Slovakia, more than 100 of the pieces reviewed included prejudices and stereotypes. Romani people are most often depicted as criminals, followed by depictions of them involving social stereotypes about welfare abuse and stereotypes about housing, in which Romani people are described as regularly destroying their dwellings or living in substandard conditions.
The most stereotyped reporting is done by online tabloid news servers and television reporting. Television reporting is also the least sensitive in its approach toward persons interviewed, often posing inappropriate questions to Romani people who have never had any experience with media communication.
Crime predominates as a topic
The analysis confirms data from previous studies finding that many pieces about Romani people in the Slovak media are about crime; during the period under review more than 13 % of the pieces were about crime. Romani people were also covered in relation to politics (especially during the municipal elections, in the context of vote-buying) and in relation to culture and housing issues.
Defenses of Romani people, integration and successful Romani projects were covered by 12 % of the pieces analyzed. Roma House believes integrated Romani people should be depicted in the media more often.
According to the Slovak Interior Ministry's 2013 Atlas of Romani Communities, 46.5 % of Romani people in Slovakia live among majority-society inhabitants. The media, however, devote more attention to Romani people living in segregated settlements (20 % of pieces surveyed) and in separate urban neighborhoods (9 % of pieces surveyed), while only 2 % of the pieces surveyed covered integrated Romani people.
Anonymous Roma in the Slovak media
In 39 % of the pieces surveyed, no Romani people were given room to express their views, even when the media coverage directly concerned them. In those pieces where a Romani person was given the opportunity to speak, that person often remained anonymous (31 % of the time) or only their first name was given (5 %).
Television in particular labels Romani people who are interviewed with designations such as "colony resident" or "settler", even in pieces where all the other respondents are listed with a full name and surname. When the particular Romani people involved in a topic being covered are not being quoted, journalists often turn to the Slovak Government Plenipotentiary for Roma Community Affairs, Petr Pollak, for comment (in 29 % of the pieces analyzed).
"It's not objective for the Government Plenipotentiary to have to comment on everything concerning Romani people, to have to take a stance both on people's everyday living needs and on exceptional events. It reflects the lack of political will among other politicians to get involved in aid of Roma," says Horváthová.
In her view, journalists should also make use of the opinions of professionals with research institutions, state administration staffers responsible for various issues, representatives of local governments, and experts from the non-governmental, non-profit organizations dedicated to this topic. Even though journalists often use stereotypes, only 4 % of the pieces analyzed directly incited hatred on the basis of ethnic origin.
Horváthová also says that while journalists are abandoning the use of the defamatory term "Gypsy", they are replacing it with "inadaptable citizens" or "settlers" instead of the term "Roma". Roma House, in collaboration with the NEWTON Media agency, analyzed 899 media pieces from 1 July to 30 November 2014; the media sample included Slovak daily newspapers such as SME, Pravda, Hospodářské noviny, Plus jeden den and Nový Čas, the online news servers Aktualne.sk, Pluska.sk a Topky.sk, and the main news programs of the television stations TV Markíza (Television News at 19:00), TV JOJ (Crime News at 19:00 and Big News at 19:30), TA3 (Main News at 18:30) and Jednotky (RTVS News at 19:00).
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