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June 19, 2021



Czech Republic: TV Prima releases more footage in its defense, but doubts remain about its interview with refugee

15.2.2016 4:36
The Prima television station in the Czech Republic is defending itself against criticism of its manipulative reporting on Christian refugees from Iraq. (PHOTO:  TV Prima)
The Prima television station in the Czech Republic is defending itself against criticism of its manipulative reporting on Christian refugees from Iraq. (PHOTO: TV Prima)

The Prima television station in the Czech Republic responded during its main news show Saturday to the criticism it received after previously broadcasting a report about Christian refugees from Iraq who came to the country several weeks ago with the aid of the Generation 21 Foundation. Prima asserts in its reporting that the refugees are complaining about the apartments they have been offered and have compared them to cowsheds.

On Saturday Prima published another part of its interview with Iraqi refugee George Batto that was not included in its first report. According to Generation 21, Prima is just continuing what the foundation believes is an anti-refugee campaign.

Refugee mentions "barn", foundation says he was not talking about actual apartments 

"If I would have had to live in some kind of residential hotel - now please, don't be angry - that would have looked almost like some kind of barn for animals that had just been painted to look better, then I simply would not do it. I would prefer to go back," is Prima's interpretation into Czech of the statement originally made by the refugee in Arabic and broadcast on Saturday.

The Saturday segment involves neither the same visual footage nor the same audio that Prima broadcast in its previous report. News server has ascertained that in this newly-broadcast segment, words about a "barn" or "place for cattle" actually are spoken in Arabic by the refugee who was interviewed.

However, it is not clear from Saturday's report what question Batto is answering when he makes this statement, nor is it clear whether he is speaking about the specific apartments offered to the refugees in Jihlava or whether he is answering a hypothetical question. "In the first report, TV Prima used an inaccurately synchronized interpretation, and the station has not yet sufficiently explained that fact. The station left what was positive out of the direct speech that was broadcast and provided a negative interpretation. The fact that the station is now broadcasting a different, heretofore unknown segment of the recording - the segment from which it took the audio of that synchronous interpretation and then added it to different footage - does not change anything," the Generation 21 Foundation said in response to Saturday's report.

According to the foundation, the television station made more untruthful allegations in its Saturday report when it asserted that Generation 21 denied that Mr Batto ever made such statements. "We were not present during the interview, and that is why we asked TV Prima if we could see the uncut footage. With the limited knowledge that we had, we merely pointed out the discrepancy in the first report between what the synchronized interpretation was saying and what the speaker was actually saying, and that discrepancy still exists. Those words, in that order, were spoken at a different point in time - to put them into someone's mouth through synchronized interpretation when the person is actually saying something else, is unacceptable. Moreover, according to George Batto, his words about a barn had nothing to do with the apartments in Jihlava, but were meant as a general remark. The reporter, however, combined those two things and has crudely done real damage to our relationship with the city and to the project as a whole," the foundation said.

According to information ascertained by the director of Generation 21, Jan Talafant, Batto's words about a "barn for animals" were spoken in response to a leading question from the reporter about what kind of circumstances would prompt the family to return to Iraq. Talafant is quoted as making that assertion in an article called "Questions around Prima's report about Iraqis" posted to the website by a reporter for the Catholic Weekly (Katolický týdeník), Alena Scheinostová.

Generation 21:  Reporter grossly abused everyone's trust, raising doubts as to his professionalism

The foundation is insisting that the reports by Prima are biased. "A significant portion of Mr Batto's communications and the interviews done by the reporter with other refugees involved their expressing gratitude for the hospitality and the kindness of people in the Czech Republic, but instead of showing any of that, the reports have fully concentrated on several unfortunate turns of phrase that sounded negative. The reporter, who pretended to be a friend of the people at the scene, has grossly abused the trust of people with an Oriental mentality who have zero experience with the media," the foundation said.

"We genuinely do not understand what is leading TV Prima, in this festering social atmosphere, to further foment xenophobic sentiments and to ruin these people's lives," said the foundation, which is interpreting Saturday's report as an absolutely clear attempt by Prima to revenge itself against Generation 21 for daring to question the accuracy of its previous reporting, as well as an effort to destroy the foundation's project to rescue 153 Christians from Iraq. "The policy of the Generation 21 Foundation, nevertheless, has been openness from the very beginning, and we will continue that policy despite this bad experience with this tabloid media," the foundation's statement concludes.

According to the Czech Government's Hate Free Culture (HFC) initiative, which also pointed out the discrepancies between Batto's words and their interpretation into Czech in Prima's first report, doubts still remain after the second report broadcast Saturday. "After the broadcast of the reportage we have just seen, it seems the man is expressing an opinion about a theoretical residential hotel - not, therefore, about the apartment he was offered, as the first report made it seem. The question he was answering is not shown, but his answer begins with the word 'If'," HFC responded when asked a question about Saturday's report on its Facebook profile.

According to HFC, Prima still has the option of broadcasting the entire interview, not just segments taken out of context and recombined. "We want the truth, no matter what it is. Prima has not yet presented any strong evidence that it did not manipulate these reports," HFC posted on Facebook.

"Because we have serious doubts about the accuracy of this report, we are calling on TV Prima to present its uncut footage where the reporter's questions will be shown along with the answers to them," HFC posted. Moreover, HFC points out that representatives of both the Center for Multicultural Education and Generation 21 have said that the style of the TV Prima reporter's work was such as to raise doubts about his professionalism.

"Dana F. of the Center for Multicultural Education says that when she came to [the place] where work is regularly done with the immigrants, she was surprised by the presence of the journalists, and was also shocked by the questions they immediately posed to her," Scheinostová's article on says. Dana F. is then quoted as saying the following:  "They immediately addressed me and asserted to me that the Batto family was saying they don't like the apartments they were offered, which surprised me, because the family is behaving very gratefully and I had never heard them complain about anything or ever express themselves in that sense. The journalists told me the family was claiming that the apartments offered to them were ugly, and I responded that they are nice and that I would live in them myself. At their request I then repeated that for the camera."

According to Dana F., the journalists primarily "created a very nervous atmosphere". It cannot be ruled out that the journalists may have provoked those they were addressing into saying something seemingly inappropriate, just as Dana F. was provoked into giving them her assessment of the apartments offered the refugees.  

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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