Czech Television put on the spot over anti-Roma election clips|
Public service broadcaster Czech Television has sparked a major row by
broadcasting a pre-election spot for the extremist Národní strana, or
National Party. The clip provided a platform for the far-right group to
express its hatred of the country’s large Roma minority. This included
the shocking promise of “a final solution to the gypsy problem.” In the
uproar that followed the broadcaster eventually gave way and said it will
not screen the spot again, though its judgement has been called into
Czech Television screened the short clip on Wednesday as part of a series
of campaign messages by parties contesting June’s European Parliament
elections. The xenophobic National Party’s offering portrays negative
stereotype images of Roma together with captions outlining its racist
stand. These include attacks on alleged favouritism for the Roma community,
promises to end attempts at integration and, most controversially, the
promise of a final solution to the gypsy problem as an example to all other
The words “final solution” clearly echo the Nazi euphemism for the
mass murder of Jews and other minorities during WWII.
The television broadcaster said it had no other option under rules for
pre-election coverage and could not interfere in the content of the clip.
But it eventually conceded that it would not be screened again.
This followed a joint intervention by Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer and
Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Michael Kocáb. They condemned the
spot as an incitement to hatred and its screening as probably constituting
a criminal act in itself.
Ladislav Šticha is spokesman for Czech Television. He was asked if the
broadcaster should shoulder some blame for broadcasting the spot.
“On no account. It could not have been a mistake by Czech Television
because the election law is very clear and strict. In broadcasting this
clip Czech Television made it clear at the start and end that it bore no
responsibility for the contents. The law does not allow us to intervene in
any way regarding the content even in the case where we have some
Mr Šticha added that the broadcaster is hoping for a change in the law
which will stop it being put in such a situation in the future.
Vladimíra Dvořáková is a politics professor at Prague’s University
of Economics. She says the broadcaster was caught in a no win situation:
open to criticism if it screened or banned the campaign clip. But she says
Czech media have a lesson to learn from this case and others: not to fall
into the trap of giving easy publicity to small racist parties such as the
“In some sense they have to inform the public that such extreme groups
do exist in Czech society and politics but on the other hand not be part of
their game - and it is difficult to do that.”
In the wake of the uproar, Czech Television says it is pondering criminal
charges against the National Party, the Ministry of Interior is looking at
banning the party and Czech Radio has spelled out that it will not be
broadcasting any of its five pre-election clips.