Incoming Czech Chief Public Health Officer apologizes to Romani people for racist joke
Pavla Svrčinová, who has been tapped to take up the role of Chief Public Health Officer in the Czech Republic, has apologized to Romani people for sharing a racist joke featuring Romani stereotypes on her Facebook profile. She was contacted by Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Helena Válková with a request for an explanation after the news broke.
According to Válková, the two had a telephone conversation during which Svrčinová apologized for the entire matter and asked the Human Rights Commissioner to convey her apology to all members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs. "I would like to hereby assure you that the placement of that post on my Facebook page was not intentional and decidedly was not meant to discredit the Romani minority, and through you I would like to apologize to them for this unpleasantness," Svrčinová wrote in an e-mail to the members of the Czech Government Council for Romani Minority Affairs, which news server Romea.cz has seen.
"I have always been willing to aid the Romani minority, as can be seen from my meeting and telephone calls with Ostrava-based representatives of that minority in the spring of last year, when we addressed the safe return of members of this minority from England together," Svrčinová wrote in the e-mail, adding that within the framework of that assistance a video created by Romani activists about the collaboration had been posted to the website of the Moravian-Silesian Regional Public Health Department. "Naturally I am counting on being able to continue providing such help," the incoming Chief Public Health Officer said at the close of her apology.
On Thursday the ROMEA organization tweeted that the joke shared to Svrčinová's Facebook page was racist. "Fero Lakatoš robbed his own apartment today. Fero is following quarantine rules and working from home. Be like Fero," read the meme shared by Svrčinová in October 2020.
"I do not know how that ended up on my profile and for that reason I have closed the entire profile. I actually do not need Facebook," she told the Czech News Agency on Thursday evening.
"I do not hold convictions of that sort at all and I decidedly do not have the feeling that I might be a racist," Svrčinová also said on public broadcaster Czech Television's program "News and Commentary" (Události, komentáře). Czech Health Minister Jan Blatný said yesterday afternoon during a press conference, when asked about the racist joke, that "I was quite taken aback by that, I'm sorry and I will speak with her about it."
Svrčinová (57) has been heading the Moravian-Sileisan Regional Public Health Department since January 2020. She is an expert in the protection and support of public health and has been specializing for years in nutrition and food safety as an auditor at EU level.
Yesterday Czech Prime Minister Babiš said Svrčinová has worked in Brussels. Five years ago she applied to serve as Chief Public Health Officer in the Czech Republic during the selection procedure for a new candidate, but because of the just-adopted law on public service, her previous work for the European Commission was not recognized as sufficiently qualifying.
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