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Hammarberg report stresses importance of media, including efforts of Romea.cz

Brussels/Prague, 28.2.2012 18:39, (ROMEA)
Collage:  Romea.cz (Photo of Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg:  www.coe.int)

The role of the media in creating public opinion has been mentioned in "Human Rights of Roma and Travellers in Europe", a report presented yesterday in Brussels by the Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg. In addition to issues such as school segregation, the report also mentions the mass media, which often does not fulfill its role responsibly when reporting on the Romani minority. The report also includes examples of media outlets which do, explicitly mentioning news server Romea.cz.

The Hammarberg report says both new and traditional media play an important role in shaping public opinion, but fail in many European countries, violating their responsibilities by supporting stereotypes about Romani and Traveller people. Instead of listing negative examples, the report mentions those who are contributing a desired change to routine media practice.

News server Romea.cz is appreciated in particular as a media outlet that not only serves Romani people, but reports to the majority population on Romani-related topics. "When I looked through the report, I found at least one positive thing about the Czech Republic. There is a positive mention of news server Romea.cz, which reports on the life of Romani people and also offers them various kinds of advice. Otherwise, we are shown in a rather bad light in the report. The neo-Nazi tendencies of the Workers' Party are reported, as are last year's anti-Romani actions in Šluknov district," said Pavel Novák, the Brussels correspondent for Czech Radio. The Romedia Foundation in Hungary is also mentioned as a positive example.

"We are very pleased with this evaluation. On the other hand, we must emphasize that the investigative reporting of news server Romea.cz is not financed by the Czech Government, nor is it financed by the EU. The reporting on discrimination and hate violence is financed by the German foundation EVZ and the Open Society Fund Prague. In recent years the Czech Culture Ministry has solely contributed to our production of video reporting on cultural topics, which is posted to www.romeatv.cz, at an amount of around CZK 150 000 per year," said Zdeněk Ryšavý, executive director of the ROMEA association, which runs the news server. "The report also refers to our news server in 15 places as a relevant source of information," he said.

The report devotes a great deal of attention to Czech media outlets, stating that the tabloid press supports stereotypes about Romani people, depicting them as criminals or welfare cheats. However, as the events of recent days have shown, even the so-called serious media cannot always pride themselves on responsible journalism. A news report by a freelancer for the tabloid Parlamentní listy, Václav Prokůpek, about a non-existent "European Romani Party" whose non-existent treasurer allegedly robbed the party's non-existent funds, was later proven to have been completely invented. The vast majority of Czech media outlets incautiously republished this "news" without verifying it.

The Hammarberg report makes a series of recommendations for improving media practice:

a. Ensure that legislation is indeed applied to those media that incite discrimination, hatred or violence against Romani people;

b. Encourage the media not to mention the ethnic origin of a person named in articles or reports when it is not essential for a good understanding ofevents;

c. Encourage the media to adopt a code of conduct for preventing, inter alia, any presentation of information that conveys prejudice or might incite discrimination, hatred or violence against Romani people;

d. Encourage the media to refrain from broadcasting any information likely to fuel discrimination and intolerance towards Romani people;

e. Support all initiatives taken to impress the dangers of anti-Gypsyism upon media professionals and their organizations;

f. Encourage the professional bodies of the media to offer journalists specific training on questions relating to Romani people and anti-Gypsyism;

g. Promote the participation of Romani people in the media sector in general, by taking steps for journalists and presenters from among Romani communities to be recruited and trained.

Gwendolyn Albert, Radka Steklá, ras, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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