Czech Republic: Romani musician receives award for civic bravery
The singer Radek Banga was given the František Kriegel Award on Wednesday, 31 May for civic bravery. Last year, during the announcement of the winners of the "Czech Nightingale" popular music awards, Banga protested against the fascist band Ortel being honored.
The František Kriegel Award is given by the Charter 77 Foundation. During last year's popular music awards ceremony, held at Prague's Karlín Musical Theater and broadcast live on television, Banga decided to leave the room immediately after Tomáš Ortel of the xenophobic Ortel band, which uses racist rhetoric in its lyrics, was announced the winner of two Silver Nightingales.
"I genuinely greatly appreciate this award and I thank the Charter 77 Foundation for it. Nevertheless, I do not consider what I did to have been something exceptionally brave, but rather just what seemed correct to me at that moment, and despite all that happened afterward I do not regret it," Banga said.
"During the past few months I have been convinced more than once that I am certainly not alone in holding this civic atttude and I am very grateful for that. Yesterday there could have been many different people standing in my place, starting with those who decided to also leave the room in protest, i.e., specifically Iva Pazderková, Jan Tuna, Filip Smid, and Pekař could have been there too. Of course, others have said 'No' clearly and loudly to displays of hatred, such as Dan Bárta, Vojtěch Dyk, Vladimír 518 and absolutely everybody from PSH, including DJ Wich, Adam Mišík, dozens of other performers, and on behalf of us musicians I might put at the top of that list a person whom I greatly appreciate, David Koller, who during his career has said 'No' to all totalitarian ideologies many times. This kind of position is not just taken by artists, and I would like to mention a very brave girl, Lucie Myslíková, who also shares it. There are many other people whose names may never be heard in the media, but their bravery is so great that whenever a display of hatred appears in their vicinity they do not stay silent, they do something about it. All of those people could have been standing where I was yesterday," Banga said on 1 June.
"Hatred is like a plague. It wants to consume everything that is good and leave no trace of it, and ultimately it eats itself. To comprehend that, of course, does not mean accepting it. For that reason, when I was given the award, I said I was grateful to be holding it but that I personally would dedicate it to all those who find the personal bravery to stand up to those who disseminate and promote hate speech. Such displays have no place in the 21st century and it is necessary to take a clear position on them and not ignore them," the singer said.
František Kriegel was one of the main figures of the Prague Spring of 1968, which was suppressed by the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. He was the only member of the Czechoslovak political leadership who refused to sign the Moscow Protocol, a document between the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (ČSSR) and the USSR signed in the immediate aftermath of the invasion in which the Czechoslovak leadership capitulated to Moscow's many demands, including the demand to restrain media critical of the Communist Party.
Kriegel was the only member of the Czechoslovak delegation to refuse to sign the protocol, a decision that ended his career. Since the restoration of democratic rule to the former Czechoslovakia and its successor states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the award in his name has been given in Prague for 27 years to those who demonstrate civic bravery irrespective of the cost or risk it involves.
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