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Slovakia: Romani girl's racist Facebook post under investigation by authorities

10.12.2019 6:13
A prefabricated apartment building in Prešov where a gas explosion happened in December 2019. (PHOTO:  Police of the Slovak Republic)
A prefabricated apartment building in Prešov where a gas explosion happened in December 2019. (PHOTO: Police of the Slovak Republic)

"Fortunately no Roma were living there, just gadje [non-Roma]," 16-year-old Baška Siváková posted to a Facebook group called "Modlitební skupina" ("Prayer Group"), adding the emoji of a heart. Slovak police specialists on extremism and hate speech have already begun reviewing the racist statement.

Siváková was referring to the prefabricated apartment building in Prešov, Slovakia where eight people perished after a gas explosion (rescue workers have not yet found the body of one of those presumed dead). Many people are condemning her online, including other Roma, but non-Roma are also reacting to the post with racism.

Condemnation of racism

"Folks, these people who lost their lives were of flesh and blood, so stop these stupid status updates that are putting us [Roma] into the role of reverse racists. I don't like this at all, this was a tragedy that has affected many families, adults and children," Alena Gronzíková of the IQ Roma servis organization in the Czech Republic responded to Siváková's post.

According to Miroslav Klempár, a Romani community member in the Czech Republic, the post is "abhorrent racism, whichever side it comes from. It's interesting that she posted it to a religious group."

"Now a post is making the rounds on Facebook that is similarly monstrous where somebody wrote that it's too bad no Roma were there [when the building exploded]," Klempár said. "Posts like this must be condemned, but I am concerned that this post [by Siváková] will become even more popular, that it will be on the news, on all the television channels, with the comment that this is what 'the Roma' are doing."

Jiří Nežerný, the Facebook user who first brought the post to Romea.cz's attention, shared it to a Facebook group called "Romea.cz - ideas, proposals, feedback, dissemination" (Romea.cz - nápady, návrhy, zpětná vazba, šíření) with the following comment: "This has really outraged me - I really dislike ALL racism, the gadje kind and the Roma kind ..." Other Romani social media users are condemning the post, as are ethnic Czechs who take an objective view of Romani people.

Mr Klempár was referencing a Facebook post by Růžena Vaváková, who is not Romani. She posted that she regrets the fact that there no Roma living in the building where the fatal accident happened: "So that's a catastrophe there were no cigani there that would have been good."

Since Siváková's post aimed against "whites" will be reviewed by the state authorities, the editors of the online newspaper DenníkS.sk asked whether the same approach will be taken by police to the racist speech from the "other side". "The police investigate all suspected crime, we will not tolerate extremism in any form or hate speech committed using the Internet," said Michal Slivka, spokesperson for the Police Presidium in Slovakia.

Both Roma and ethnic Slovaks are responding to the police statement, including on the Facebook profile of the Police of the Slovak Republic. "The same standards should apply for everybody," a Facebook user named Michal Sivák posted.

"What I see from this young girl is a moral failure, inhumanity, the certainty that this is just her 'opinion', and what I see from the older lady [Vaváková] is a stereotypical style of living in prejudices. Both sides deserve to be punished," Sivák continued.

"Ignorance of the law is no excuse," Sivák posted. Facebook user Michal Ťuťko Nemčík added this comment: "It's not normal to react like this, you whites and you Roma should be ashamed of yourselves, you should have been giving aid and not clashing here."

A practiced racist

Another person posting to Facebook under the name Marian Zboril has responded to Siváková's post. He wrote the following: "Set all the cigány on fire. Hang the women and skin them, make the children watch and then drown them. Tear their remains to pieces and let them rot in the sun, then scatter them by the forest so the animals eat them. That's my solution to the Roma issue, not welfare and apartments!"

This is not the first time Zboril has posted these words in response to Romani-related subject matter. For example, he wrote those same words on Facebook in April of this year.

After publishing the status update in April, Zboril first removed his face from his profile photo, after which his profile became unavailable. Several hours later, he apologized for his words as follows: "I am not a bad person and I regret this oversight. I regret it with my whole soul and I hope I will be forgiven."

His racist outcry had been published by the authors of the Facebook page called "Prečo ľuďom hrabe?" ("Why Are People Scrabbling Around?") with their own opinion added: "A typical 'hero'. First he writes disgusting filth, and when he finds out he might suffer some unpleasantness because of it, he pees his pants and makes a show of repentance. This is as believable as a 'medieval' castle made out of drywall."

Those commentators turned out to be right. Police in Slovakia are investigating, and this latest reiteration of these words will probably count against him.

Czech Police also reviewing verbal racism

Hateful commentaries like these have also been investigated by the Czech Police. The case of the class photo of first-graders at a primary school in Teplice is one of the better-known examples.

After the photo of the children, who were of Arab, Romani and Vietnamese origin, appeared on social media, some social media users began to call them !suicide assassins. Others proposed gassing them, inspired by the fact that the school is on "Gasworks Street" (Plynárenská ulice).

The Czech Police are also investigating comments about the terrorist attack perpetrated against mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand to see whether some Czech social media users have committed the felony of approving of that crime. The Czech justice system has also dealt with the racist threats made against the Romani singer Radek Banga.

Police charged 12 people in that case and nine verdicts have been handed down against those who made the threats. The harshest punishment came from the District Court in Prostějov against 32-year-old social media user Aleš Rozsíval - an 18-month prison sentence, conditionally suspended for a probationary period of 30 months.

František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Facebook, Police, Racism, Sociální sítě



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