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August 10, 2022



Albanian comedy shows feature blackface, prejudice and stereotypes about Romani people

13.9.2021 7:17
Clips from Albania's racist television shows (2021). (PHOTO: ERRC)
Clips from Albania's racist television shows (2021). (PHOTO: ERRC)

"The Albanian anti-Romani comedy shows broadcast by television stations nationally portray Romani people as unappealing, alien and untrustworthy persons," says lawyer Xhenon Cela of two television programs inciting hatred of Romani people in particular, the Portokalli program on Top-Channel and Al Pazar on the Vision Plus channel. The programs mock Romani people's character as well as their accented Albanian and are followed by the general public, which makes no secret of how amusing they find the content, at which they frequently laugh uproariously.

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) has published an article on its website drawing attention to this phenomenon. "While elsewhere in Europe, white actors in blackface for the purpose of entertainment is unacceptable, in these Albanian shows all of the Romani characters are played by white actors with their faces painted dark brown, which I consider unacceptable," Cela emphasizes, also expressing the conviction that these Albanian television shows, especially their comedy programs, have to change their approach to entertainment.    

"Romani people consider the designation 'gypsy' so unacceptable as to be derogatory," Cela said, referring to an Albanian saying that while the spoken word has no bones, it is strong enough to break actual bones. Marian Bogdan, a Hungarian media theoretician who studies modern racism, says both visual and written media are able to contribute in negative ways to manipulating the public in its relationship to the Romani community.  

According to Stuart Hall, a British-Jamaican sociologist, such depictions mock difference and should be perceived as a cultural phenomenon that creates unhealthy relationships in society as a whole. Cela points out that shows such as Al Pazar and Portokalli contribute to creating a false image of Romani people with the aim of entertaining audiences, however unaware of this they may be.

These stereotypes and prejudices contribute to denying the humanity of Romani people who deviate from social norms. "What is worse, though, is that hate speech and dehumanization can eventually result in human rights violations and violence," Cela emphasizes at the close of the article.  

A similar anti-Romani show can also be seen in the Czech language through the Facebook social networking site under the name "Jútuber Jožka". The company has refused to block those racist videos despite being called upon to do so repeatedly. 

Helena Markusová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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