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June 3th, 1998

Editor of Czech radio Romany broadcasts Jarmila Balazova intends to file a lawsuit against the Republican party because of its TV and radio pre-election spots. According to Jarmila Balazova, the spots rudely attack Czech Romanies. Radio Prague's Alena Skodova has the story.

Miss Balazova told Czech radio that Republican statements are verging on racism: the Republicans in their TV and radio spots describe Romanies as "a parasitical ethnic group which has been sponging off our society". The spots also maintain that "Gypsies murder, rape and rob decent citizens with impunity".

"I will press charges against the Republicans as a private person, a citizen of this state, and also as a chief editor of a Romany monthly magazine, with all my colleagues joining me. I was a bit disappointed by the fact that Czech radio did not take tougher measures and that it did not follow the Lidove noviny daily in filing a lawsuit, too," said Miss Balazova.

Editor in chief of the Radiojournal station, Alexandr Picha, responded: The Republican spot is unfortunately formulated in a way that it is not contestible, but the law, under which Czech radio must broadcast 14 hours of pre-election spots of all political parties, should be revised, because Czech radio is thus forced to broadcast statements which are on the verge of racism," said Picha.

As for the Republicans themselves, deputy Jan Vik described Balazova's move as a pre-election trick targeted against his party.

The state attorney in Prague has already received a complaint lodged by the daily newspaper LIDOVE NOVINY which claims that the Republican campaign is in violation of the law.

Minister without portfolio Vladimir Mlynar, who also heads the Ministerial commission for Romany issues, met with ambassadors from EU members states on Tuesday to explain the situation of the Romany minority in the Czech Republic. The ambassadors stressed the necessity to respect human rights if a country wants to join the EU.

Minister Mlynar said the picture of the Czech republic drawn in foreign media was distorted and informed the ambassadors about government programmes aimed at helping the Romanies integrate into society and solving their main problems, namely low education and bad employment opportunities.

European Commission ambassador to Prague, Joannes Ter Haar, told reporters after the meeting that Brussels was prepared to provide financial suport for such programmes amounting to about two million ECU.

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