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After a tragedy, a community finds strength in unity

Tereza Bottman | Posted August 9th, 2010 | Uncategorized

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It’s dusk. An unknown car pulls in to the neighborhood and slowly approaches our small group talking on a tree-lined street in a neighborhood of modest wooden family homes and neatly kept picket-fenced yards. The atmosphere tenses.

“Why are they coming here?” one of the local men asks under his breath, his eyes never leaving the car coming toward us.

Suddenly I remember a reality I had forgotten while drinking tea and visiting with the locals in one of the resident family’s backyards. We are in Bedřiška, a “socially excluded community” in northeastern Czech Republic, where last year a molotov cocktail, thrown by neo-Nazis out of a car into an open bedroom window, almost killed a two-year-old Romani girl in her sleep.

The racially motivated attack left three of the house inhabitants injured and caused the little girl severe burns on 80 percent of her body. The attackers are currently on trial for attempted murder.

The car stops not more than five feet from us, the lights stay on, the engine idles for some time, clearly putting some in the group on alert.

“They must be lost,” guesses one of the men.

Soon, a woman no one seems to know opens the car door and hurries past us without a greeting into a house a few doors down. The car drives away. Sense of relief.

The evening sky has a pleasant, summer glow, the birds chirp. A small dog accompanies us, playing with a toy. A group of teens walking toward us greets community activist Sri Kumar Vishwanathan, whom I am accompanying on his trip to Bedřiška today, with smiles.

They linger and exchange a few words about how they have been doing. Vishwanathan asks the youth if they would like a soccer field in their neighborhood, pointing at a large, lush green space on the other side of the road that could potentially be used for a field. The boys reply enthusiastically.

Vishwanathan asks the girls if they would play soccer, or what they prefer to do in their free time. The girls are much more shy than the boys and don’t provide any answers readily. But in less than a year’s time, the neighborhood should have a community center, for which they have pressed the city, completed.

The plans for the center are multifold. It would house afterschool activities for children, tutoring sessions, a meeting and performance space, and more.

[community activists in Bedřiška]

As we continue our way down the street, the locals tell of a recent case when someone in the neighborhood got hurt and the police were phoned, however the phone call from “that notorious location” was dismissed as a prank call and help was not dispatched until multiple calls were placed. The ambulance did arrive on the scene, but was very delayed.

My mind is still buzzing from the neighborhood association meeting I had just attended in Bedřiška. The group had been meeting for some time to advocate for the needs of the community’s residents, but because they were not taken seriously by city hall, they decided to form an official association in May. Since then, their influence has grown, one of the members had told me.

“Now that we are official, they can’t just brush us aside. They have to listen to us,” he said.

“Bedřiška is an example of how a community can come together following a tragedy,” Vishwanathan observed. “What happened could have taken on a negative path toward destruction, or gone in a positive direction toward cooperation.”

Clearly, the latter is the case.

“We talk things through here,” explains one of the association’s leaders. “If there is a dispute among the neighbors, we try to sit down, talk and resolve it.”

“Not everyone is on board yet. But we’re working on it,” she adds.

Deescalating conflict through mediation is a key strategy the association uses to build unity and prevent dangerous situations. The efforts are made all the more urgent, considering the wounds of racist violence in this community are still fresh.

Last March, another arson attack on a Romani family’s home occurred. This time, the perpetrator was a white neighbor from across the street.

As we make our way down the road, we cross paths with a family leaving their home. “Four months ago a molotov cocktail was thrown inside this family’s house,” Vishwanathan relates. “Their teenage daughter put out the fire and saved her relatives’ lives.”

“How is your daughter sleeping these days? Is she able to sleep?” Vishwanathan asks the mother.

The mother looks down and timidly shakes her head from side to side. The truth is clear. The family is still experiencing trauma, months after the incident.

“If the fire had spread, it could have burned a big part of the neighborhood down,” says one of the local leaders. “People realized that what affects one family, affects us all. So we started working together.”

In addition to mediating conflicts and advocating for space, funding, staff and supplies for tutoring and afterschool children’s activities, the association organizes weekly clean-ups of the neighborhood. The group plans community-wide events such as movie screenings, games for children and performances that bring the neighborhood together.

The association also acts as a link between the residents and city hall when rental agreements or other legal documents and proceedings must be attended to. Sometimes archives have to be searched, letters written, errors exposed and fair treatment demanded.

In one case, for example, the association helped when a resident, who had paid all his back rent in full, was later unexpectedly alerted that he had an exorbitant outstanding debt to the city with no clear explanation of why these charges had been incurred.

The locals with whom I spent my evening also shared a story about taking a stand against a local drug dealer who ran a methamphetamine (or pervitin in Czech) lab in the neighborhood. As a result of their actions, the police arrested the drug dealer, making the neighborhood safer for the kids.

The community has a vision of creating a historical display explicating and simultaneously commemorating the neighborhood’s history, closely tied to the region’s steel mill industry. Bedřiška’s wooden homes were built in the 1950s for the steel mill workers who had moved to the area for work.

Today, the unemployment rate among the Roma in the region is high, veering between 90 and 100 percent. One of the association’s goals is to push for ways to employ the neighborhood’s residents, for instance as construction workers or street cleaners, and while we were visiting Bedřiška, an arrangement was made to begin the process with an organization which Vishwanathan recommended.

“I started activism because I have children and grandchildren here, and I want everyone here to have a good future,” a white woman, who is one of the leaders in the neighborhood tells me. “I like the Roma. We are different culturally, but as long as we can accept our differences and talk with each other openly, we get along.”

Fighting for fair treatment and opportunity, however, does not come without a price, she says.

“I have lost old friends of twenty-five to thirty years over this,” the activist tells me, describing how explosive associating across racial lines in the Czech Republic can be.

“When they said things like, ‘You are betraying the white race,’” she continues, “that had to be the end of our friendship.”

By the time our visit wraps up, it is late and the sun has long gone down. I am full of impressions. Images of resigned, dark-skinned “ghetto” inhabitants in graffiti-covered, bleak city landscapes of half-dilapidated buildings flash through my mind. Mainstream media are the modern-day myth-makers. Over selectively crafted, cliched, mass-produced myths, I prefer true stories, told by the people in the real world and in their own words.

3 Responses to “After a tragedy, a community finds strength in unity”

  1. This is the kind of feet-on-the-ground reporting that is so very rare, so very needed. Your last paragraph is truly a basis for new understanding; the myths are indeed clichéd & mass-produced in the media. There are stories of great uplift and promise to be told, you have the courage to travel to them. The first scene, so sensationally reported over the past year by others, takes us inside the trauma that real people felt, and continue to feel; lets us understand the helpless feeling when an unknown visitor appears – not unlike the visitors who came previously with fire. You paused for an authentic report, we are more rich for that.

    Thanks for bringing this full and measured account to us.

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For Romani families in poverty, threat of forced removal of children by the state looms large

Tereza Bottman | Posted August 7th, 2010 | Uncategorized

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Members of nineteen families facing eviction file in to a small conference room. The multigenerational group listens intently as LifeTogether director Sri Kumar Vishwanathan describes the situation: his organization, in partnership with several private firms, was, at the last minute, able to secure eighteen apartments on the outskirts of town for families who have defaulted on rent, and are thus being forced to move out of a building in one of the city’s “socially excluded Romani locations.” The apartments offered to those present contain only bare walls, no appliances and insufficient facilities–a sink, but no shower or tub.

[Sri Kumar Vishwanathan, head of LifeTogether, meets with families facing eviction]

This particular community’s unemployment rate stands at a shocking 100 percent, a phenomenon that is common in many of the poor Czech Romani enclaves. In order to survive, families often rely on money lenders who use unethical practices, charging exorbitant amounts of interest, thus forcing families into vicious cycles of poverty which are difficult to break.

As a result of their dire economic situation and deeply entrenched systemic discrimination, several families at the meeting have already had some of their children taken away by the state and at least four others are in danger of having their children placed into state care.

“The mothers were ashamed to say their children are under the threat of being removed from the family,” Vishwanathan, who founded LifeTogether in the northeastern Czech town of Ostrava thirteen years ago, related to me in private after the meeting. “They feel they have failed. But it’s not their fault.”

“Czech Republic is number one in Europe,” he continues, “in terms of having the highest rate of forced removal of children from Romani families and placed in state-run institutions.”

Indeed, Human Rights Watch has found that the Czech Republic has the highest number of infants under the age of three forced into institutional care of all EU countries.

Vishwanathan’s organization works to help prevent such practices, which have been criticized by the European Roma Rights Center and Amnesty International, among other human rights watchdogs. LifeTogether provides many services for the Romani community, including legal aid, counseling as well as help for children who run away from state foster care institutions.

[Sri Kumar Vishwanathan]

To truly remediate the situation, however, a systemic overhaul is long overdue. In its Survey on Children in Alternative Care, Eurochild, a network of organizations and individuals working across Europe to improve the quality of life of children, outlines seven steps by which European governments could prevent forced removal of children from families in poverty. Eurochild states:

EU member states should invest more in moving away from a child care system based on large institutions and move towards the provision of a range of integrated, family-based and community-based services.

Another Eurochild recommendation suggests that “the involvement of children, young people and their families is crucial, both in the decision- making processes affecting them directly and in the development of alternative care policies and services. They should therefore be empowered to participate in all stages of the care process and the EU should encourage the development of peer led groups of children, young people and parents with experience of care.”

The European Roma Rights Center identifies the role of the social worker as key in addressing systemic discrimination, as social workers are those who determine whether a family is “definitively incapable of caring for a child.” This decision is often driven by preconceived conceptions and a social worker’s view of the Romani community. The Bratinka Report, a study discussed in the ERRC document, found this to be the case:

This report found that 38% of social workers felt that the main obstacle to better relationships were the “unsavoury characteristics of the Roma”, that the Romani minority should attempt to adapt to the majority, that affirmative action programmes for the Roma were a waste of money and their influence negligible, and that it would be good to strike hard at Romany criminality and disregard for generally accepted norms. Forty-two percent of social workers felt that pro-active programmes for the Roma were an unfair privilege for one group of citizens. The ramifications of these perceptions may indeed correlate with the disproportionate representation of Roma children in institutions and necessarily question whether Romani families are given a just assessment of their rightful capacity to raise their own children.

Because social workers’ prejudices can ultimately lead to the break-up of a family, it is crucial that, as the organization Eurochild asserts, “all professionals working with and for children, including those in the education, health care, child protection and social work sectors, need high quality on-going training and supervision.”

Furthermore, Eurochild advocates that risks of social exclusion associated with poverty must be reduced:

The fight against child poverty must remain a key political priority of the EU. Social inequality denies children equal access to services and perpetuates the cycle of poverty. A strong political framework is required at EU level to ensure all member states put in place the necessary structural reforms to ensure all families have access to a minimum income and adequate services.

This year happens to be the EU Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion, and in that regard, the Czech Republic has far to go. Considering the critical situation of the Romani population living in poverty, it is an abomination that the newly elected Czech government plans to cut social spending rather than invest in uplifting marginalized communities so they can live fearless, dignified lives.

“That’s very big of you. You are noble people,” Vishwanathan responds to one mother’s offer to forgo her chance to move into the apartment offered by LifeTogether before the meeting with the families concludes. The mother wants to give a preference to a family in danger of having its children removed by the state. She says, “There are nineteen families and eighteen apartments. Of course I will give a family that needs it more a chance first. We, who have kids, know how it is.”

Fortunately, following the eviction from an already long-neglected building for the poor, she and her children will be able to stay at her aunt’s for now.

One Response to “For Romani families in poverty, threat of forced removal of children by the state looms large”

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Honoring Pain and Loss, Urging Vigilance and Change on International Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day

Tereza Bottman | Posted August 4th, 2010 | Uncategorized

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On August 2nd, representatives and friends of the Romani and Sinti communities from Germany, Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic gathered at Auschwitz to commemorate the International Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The ceremony took place at the site of the so-called Zigeunerlager, or “Gypsy” Camp, where more than 23,000 Roma were imprisoned. The date marked the 66th anniversary of the liquidation of the “Gypsy Family Camp” at Auschwitz II-Birkenau on the night of August 2, 1944 when the Nazis killed 2,897 men, women, and children in the gas chambers. International Roma Holocaust (or, in Romani, Porajamos) Remembrance Day has been observed since 1994.

[Family at the International Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day commemoration at Auschwitz, photo by Tereza Bottman]

“I was a child when I visited this place for the first time,” recalled Roman Kwiatkowski, Chairman of the Association of the Roma in Poland in his speech to the audience, which, aside from activists and Romani as well as majority community members, included religious figures and government officials.

“I came here with my mother,” continued Kwiatkowski, “and I can still remember two things: the crumbling monument and my mother sobbing uncontrollably. I understood very little back then, I could not comprehend the symbolism of this place and the magnitude of the tragedy and suffering connected with it. However, I subconsciously felt how important it was, and concluding from its condition, how forgotten it must have been. A sense of mission was born in me then. From the beginning of my activity as a grown-up man and an activist for the Romani community, my aim has been to refill this place with proper meaning and importance.”

The Monument of Roma and Sinti at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum was built in 1973 and renovated in 1994. The plaque on the granite obelisk reads:

“Memorial place of Roma of the concentration camp in Auschwitz – Birkenau. Thousands of men, women and children imprisoned, tortured victims of German Fascism, died in this concentration camp in Birkenau – cruelly tormented, murdered and gassed. Funded by the Roma Association in Germany 1973 Rose O. Bamberger”

[Monument of Roma and Sinti at Auschwitz-Birkenau, photo credit Czech Radio]

The exact number of Roma who perished in the Holocaust is unknown, but historians estimate it to be between half- and 1.5 million people. More than 90% of Czech Roma died at the hand of the Nazis. Over 62% of Romani prisoners at Auschwitz came from Germany and Austria, 22% were brought from the Czech Republic, and the rest came from Poland.

To this day, Romani activists have been struggling to attain recognition and redress for the crimes committed by the Nazis against their community during WWII.

“Unfortunately our organization has come to understand that the Roma are not honored equally to other victims of the Nazi era in compensation efforts,” said Čeněk Růžička, Chairman of the Committee for Compensation of Romani Holocaust in the Czech Republic. “It seems unbelievable that up to the present moment, compensations have not been completed, and, in contrast to the redress process regarding the property claims of Jews, compensations for Romani properties have not yet been started.”

Růžička’s organization is committed to continuing to advocate for Romani Holocaust victims. He says: “We will continue to ask for compensation of Romani assets and for the Roma to be present as equal partners in the dealings. The victims who remain alive have selected us to represent their rightful interests, and we want nothing more than to right this injustice.”

The community representatives and Polish government officials who spoke at the event urged everyone present to remain vigilant and to continue to support the plight of the Roma who, as Gejza Adam of the Slovak Roma Coalition Party said, “have been striving to become equal members” of societies across Europe.

“Despite the fact that sixty years have passed since the tragedy,” Adam said, “Romani communities in Europe have been suffering from the same negligence as always.”

[Auschwitz Gate, photo by Tereza Bottman]

Poverty, alarming environmental and social conditions, as well as low social status are just some of the issues the Roma face, Adam said, taking a moment to criticize the current situation: “Financial aid distributed by the European resources that is aimed at helping the Roma improve their social status hardly ever gets to its addressees, meaning the Romani people themselves.”

Drawing parallels between the importance of remembering the victims and the relevance of those memories today was a theme throughout the ceremony.

“Sixty-five years ago the Nazi ideology was conquered,” said Růžička. “But, unfortunately, not its ideas. They appear again and again. So let us be watchful and uncompromising so that we do not lose control over them.”

“It is our duty not only to inform and to spread the knowledge of these places and about the unimaginable crime committed on the Romani nation, a nation that was so categorically sentenced to death because of its race and ethnicity,” said Kwiatkowski. “It would be tragic to belittle and forget the fact that Roma and Sinti were exterminated. We cannot allow such a situation to arise, because it is only one step from the consent for the repetition of the brutal practices that marked the history of Europe and the whole world in such a painful manner.”

["Haunted" -- Auschwitz-Birkenau, photo by Tereza Bottman]

Adam concluded his speech with these powerful words:

“I am truly sorry to dare raise your awareness (about the problems today) at this particular place, but I hope the ashes and unmarked graves of the Holocaust victims can become the sacred ground from which human hope, tolerance and moral courage will rise in order to help us–Romani people–become valid members of societies that value human rights and equality above all.”

[flowers to honor the victims, photo by Tereza Bottman]


A slide show of the August 2, 2010 ceremony can be seen here.

Those who understand Romani or Slovak can watch a short documentary by the Romani Press Agency about the Romani Holocaust here.

[Romani boys at the commemoration, photo by Tereza Bottman]

More photos from the ceremony:

4 Responses to “Honoring Pain and Loss, Urging Vigilance and Change on International Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day”

  1. Karie says:

    Great photos and write-up. This must have been emotionally draining to attend!
    I visited Auschwitz myself about 4 years ago, and you’re absolutely right: Jews are mentioned much, much more frequently than the Roma whenever even the Auschwitz tour guides talk about the Holocaust. It seems that the Roma are simply forgotten. Thanks for making this tough trip to help us all remember.

  2. Alisa says:

    This is a very powerful story, which I hope brings the attention to the loss of the Roma people. I and did not have an awareness of this issue prior to reading your articles. I appreciate the difficult work you are doing, and your dedication to bring awareness and prevention of this kind of cruelty in the world. Thank you!

  3. Tereza Bottman says:

    So sad, so hard to hear about….thank you for your efforts to balance and redress these brutalities.

    My wish is for everyone to be more inclusive and for all boundaries and borders to be dissolved in love.

    (I tried to post on your blog but i think the reply link was inactive, sorry)

    - Alice

  4. A vivid account, Tereza. Thanks making it possible for the rest of us to be there.

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Seizing the Opportunity: An Interview with Romani News Anchor Richard Samko

Tereza Bottman | Posted July 27th, 2010 | Uncategorized

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“My work has become my hobby,” says Richard Samko, the second ever Romani news anchor on Czech Television. “The work is colorful and diverse. It’s also an adrenaline rush, and I like that.”

[Richard Samko, photo credit Czech Radio]

Samko has worked in the field of journalism for eleven years as a reporter, news anchor and more recently host of Events and Commentary, a nightly program featuring news analysis and political commentary.

In the late 1990s, the Dženo Association introduced Samko to the world of journalism in a training designed to bring up a new generation of Romani reporters.

Samko is a pioneer, with only Ondřej Giňa, Jr., the first news anchor of Romani background in the Czech Republic, having blazed the trail before him. Samko’s drive, energy and passion for his work in the news media underscore our conversation.

“I stuck with it for years, working my way up, because I wanted to make it far,” says Samko. “The opportunity was something a person gets only once in a lifetime. To get to work in Czech Television is huge; it’s power.”

Samko has covered topics as wide-ranging as immigration, problems inside the police force, right-wing extremism, traffic law, housing issues and unemployment. He has also taken part in producing documentaries, an interest he would like to pursue in greater depth.

One documentary on which Samko collaborated was The Saga of the Roma (Sága Romů), a film examining the changes in the Romani community and its relationship to the majority population during the second half of the 20th century. Samko confesses filmmaking is his dream.

“When I worked on The Saga, filmmaking really grabbed me. I saw that the work was more creative,” Samko recalls. “I then made a few short documentaries myself.”

“I would like to make a film that is Roma-themed,” Samko continues. “I can see that as the most realistic undertaking for me; a topic which I understand the best and can say the most about.”

One of the most powerful aspects of being so visible in the media is Samko’s ability to inspire Romani children, who look up to him as a role model from their own ranks.

Whenever Samko’s hectic schedule allows it, Samko travels to Romani cultural festivals to act as master of ceremonies and to speak to the children.

“I want the children to see a positive example of what is possible to achieve,” says Samko.

One of his projects is a program called Fledglings (Ptáčata), in which a television crew follows a group of second-graders, many of them Romani, as they learn to become camera operators, reporters and news anchors while documenting their own lives.

Samko is a visionary. He recognizes the potential in his community and advocates for the skills of those newly trained in his field to be harnessed. Once funding for Dženo’s Romani station Radio Rota is renewed and the broadcast expanded via digital satellite technology, Samko, who would work with the station in advisory capacity, sees an enormous opportunity for a new generation of journalists.

“Radio Rota should be funded,” asserts Samko, “because it would serve as a base for those who have started on a path towards a career in journalism. There is a potential here that should be developed further. In mainstream television, where I work, there is no time for on-the-job training or mentoring. New journalists have to be ready to start working at a professional level. That’s where media organizations such as Dženo and Radio Rota come in.”

Another role that Radio Rota could fulfill is that of enabling journalists from the majority population to access experiences of the members of Romani community whose issues would be of interest because they ‘affect the entire country,’ as Samko says.

“Mainstream media could draw on the work of Romani journalists reporting for Radio Rota,” Samko continues, “because they tend to be the ones with access to the Romani community, something the average Czech reporter doesn’t have.”

In addition to providing information mainstream journalists could draw on as well as hands-on experience to young Romani reporters, Radio Rota, because the Czech Republic is in the center of Europe, could serve as the heart of Romani newscasting, says Samko.

“Radio Rota could broadcast news programming from around the world,” Samko envisions. “We know journalists in Bulgaria, Hungary, Russia, Poland, etc. We know people everywhere. In all these places there are journalists who would contribute Romani-themed programs. The station could be a pan-European showcase.”

To close, Samko urges: “I want my fellow Roma to persevere in doing what they enjoy despite obstacles they may encounter. The opportunities are there. It may take a few years. There will be a few years of waiting, but then the chance to get to a better place will arrive and they will be able to fulfill their dreams.”

“And as far as the majority community is concerned,” Samko concludes, “more tolerance is necessary. There needs to be more room and less judgement of people based on their looks or minority status. Minorities must be given a chance.”

One Response to “Seizing the Opportunity: An Interview with Romani News Anchor Richard Samko”

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Matters of the Heart: A conversation with Romani radio personality Iveta Demeterová

Tereza Bottman | Posted July 23rd, 2010 | Uncategorized

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“It was when I started here in 2002 that my big love affair with this work began,” says Iveta Demeterová, Director of Programming at Radio Rota, the first Romani internet station in the Czech Republic, founded and operated by the Dženo Association.

“None of us at the station took the work as a mere job; we considered it our life’s mission and our passion,” recalls Demeterová. “For us, it was a matter of the heart. None of us ever looked at the clock; we worked until we were happy with what we produced.”

[Iveta Demeterová, photo by Tereza Bottman]

During Radio Rota’s heyday between 2002 and 2006, the station attracted tens of thousands of listeners from the Czech Republic and around the world each month. Radio Rota aired news, public affairs programming, talk shows, and cultural programs in three languages: Czech, English and Romani. The radio presented organizations to which the community could turn for help.

The hope is that if enough funding is raised, the station will soon resume broadcasting, this time in digital satellite format, reaching listeners in more languages, across as much as three quarters of Europe.

“The station served as a a link, connecting Roma who before the year 2000 immigrated to Canada, England, Belgium, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand,” explains Demeterová. “We provided a way for them to communicate together, obtain information from us, and, in return, pass on information to us about how they were doing abroad; how they were faring in areas of housing, education, work; how they were perceived there and whether they had problems based on the color of their skin.”

The audience also included the majority population.

“Our motto was: ‘Radio about and for, but not only for the Roma,’” says Demeterová, who, as of September, will also be the new Director of Romani programming on Czech Radio, a publicly funded station with a weekly listenership of nearly 3 million.

“I was most thrilled by the fact that there was such great cooperation between the station and its listeners,” beams Demeterová. “The telephone rang off the hook. We received so many emails, it was a challenge to respond to all of them.“

One of the regular programs was a show called Voicemail. “The messages that people sent to each other through us were incredible,“ remembers Demeterová. “People called in to confess their love for each other, to make birthday wishes, to express regrets that they cannot be there to celebrate their grandparents‘ anniversaries.“

Radio Rota even brought people together; not only couples, but friends or relatives who had not been able to find each other for years.

“I did not live my own life doing this work,“ Demeterová confesses. “I lived the lives of the others; the listeners, because I was their fan. I provided advice and contacts for organizations that could help them.“

During the time of campaigns, politicians were regularly invited to the Radio Rota studio to be interviewed and to discuss their platforms. Informally, many of them expressed their support for the station, but in the end, their words were mostly empty promises, says Demeterová.

“Funding was always an issue,” she explains. “The station was built for money from abroad. We asked the Ministry of Culture for funding, and we received it twice. We were glad we received the support, even though it was less than the amount we had requested.“

“We had to prioritize,“ says Demeterová. “There were times when we were only able to pay the bills and the contractors, still we continued working. We weren’t thinking about ourselves; we were thinking about the listeners who were waiting for the services the station provides.“

The importance of independent, minority-run media such as Radio Rota cannot be overstated. Demeterová says the station played a unique role in Czech society in that it emphasized a positive image of the Romani community.

“If the majority population truly wants to have a multicultural society and to be a lawful member of the European Union,“ Demeterová asserts, “if they want tolerance to preside over this land, one way to achieve this is [for the majority and the Roma] to continue getting to know each other. Radio Rota could be a vehicle to open the way for that process.“

Several years later, fans are still writing in, wondering what is happening with the radio station.

“People are still waiting for something to happen, hoping that the radio will continue,” says Demeterová.

The station provided not only information and entertainment, but also a sense of community as well as pride.

“When the radio was created, the community felt part of the experience,” Demeterová explains. “The people felt that they belonged there: ‘We, too, have our own radio station now.’”

“When the listeners wrote in, they did not call it ‘your radio;’” she concludes.“They called it ‘our radio.’ We gave them something to feel proud of.”

One Response to “Matters of the Heart: A conversation with Romani radio personality Iveta Demeterová”

  1. 'peju says:

    Radio Rata sounds like a powerful platform to rewrite the negative story of Romas. Great work!

    I do wonder about the Roma diaspora. From your entry it sounds like there is a significant number out there, can they be a source of funding?

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The newly-formed Czech government wages a war on welfare while state-run energy giant profits soar

Tereza Bottman | Posted July 15th, 2010 | Uncategorized

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On Tuesday, Czech President Václav Klaus swore in the new conservative government, formed following the May Parliamentary elections, in which the left-wing Social Democrats won by a narrow margin, but center-right parties captured more votes overall. The right-wing coalition secured 118 of the Parliament’s 200 lower-chamber seats. All fifteen Minister posts will be held by men, a choice which has been criticized by political analysts and women’s rights groups alike. However, the Parliament now houses a record number of women, 22% of the MPs, and will be led by women. Ethnic minorities, who make up no more than 3 percent of the total population, on the other hand, have no representation in Parliament.

Those on the margins of Czech society have a reason to worry. One of the right-leaning government’s highest priorities is placing limits on government spending, namely by cutting government jobs and salaries as well as slashing social expenditures and overhauling (read eventually privatizing) the pension and health care systems. The trend of reducing government spending, especially child and maternity benefits as well as support for the unemployed, is troubling for those already struggling to survive.

[photo credit: backspace.com's Social Designs]

“The new right-wing government will cause more intense isolation of the Roma on the margins of society,” constituted Romani activist Štefan Gorol, one of the respondents to a post-election survey carried out by Romano hangos, a Romani monthly. “We will be denied access to resources which are available to other members of the society. These resources include employment, housing, social protection, health care, and education.”

Mr. Gorol is not alone. Ivan Veselý, chairman of the Romani advocacy and media group Dženo Association, is one of many who are concerned.

“The times are getting tough. There are going to be serious ramifications,” says Veselý.

Respekt weekly editor-in-chief Erik Tabery in his political commentary on the new government agrees that slashing social benefits is a terrible idea: “It’s difficult to understand that the administration is apparently preparing to cut social benefits for poor families with children or support for people with a lighter form of disabilities. However much it may be necessary to prevent the abuse of various benefits, this type of support should not be abolished. A state that is not able to take care of the most vulnerable is worthless.”

Something important to remember is that not all people living in poverty in the Czech Republic are Roma, as the mainstream press would have the public believe.

“Only about one-fifth of those on social welfare benefits are Roma,” Veselý points out. This is still a disproportionately high number, considering the Roma make up around 2% of the total population (the number of Roma living in the Czech Republic is estimated to be somewhere between 150,000 and 300,000.)

At least half the Romani population do not live below the poverty level in socially excluded locations (sociologist Ivan Gabal estimates the number of Roma in socially excluded locations to be just over 85 thousand of the total of 150,000 to 200,000 Roma in the country) and many are college-educated professionals. Karel Holomek, long-time Romani activist and current president of the international Decade for Roma Inclusion 2005-2015, stresses just that in his latest blog post entitled “Absence of Rationality in Discussions about the Peaceful Co-existence of the Roma in Our Society“:

Such discussions point at a deficiency of the members of the Romani community, which they inaccurately call inadaptibility. What is talked about is careless attitude toward housing (on the part of the Roma), non-payment of rent, aggressive behavior of Romani children, unwillingness to learn or work, abuse of social benefits and other such matters. . . An unfortunate consequence is that the nature of this type of a discussion and, in general, such commonly and almost uniformly held societal views have a negative effect not only on a relatively small group of Roma, but on the entire society. . . The public’s hatred expressed quite clearly in statistical data is aimed against the entire Romani community, even though it is clear that it should only concern the part which is discreditable, if we at all accept such discredibility exists. And this group is much smaller than the entire Romani community.

The government’s focus on cutting spending is driven by the Maastricht Treaty, which mandates all EU member states to cut their state spending to a threshold of 3%. Currently the public deficit for the Czech Republic is projected to be 5.6% of GDP for 2010. Of course, the recession is another reason for the cuts, the public is told.

While the media work the public opinion by highlighting random Romani families who find loopholes in the social benefit system to “take advantage of,” and airing heated debates with guests who spout racist stereotypes and point fingers at the Roma as the “culprits for all the social ills,” the government wheels and deals, bringing in record profits despite the recession, yet warning of drastic cuts to social spending.

Some questions have recently been raised about the Czech government’s finance priorities in the form of backroom deals from which the country’s largest energy provider, the state-run energy company and highest grossing Czech company ČEZ, stands to profit.

In 2009, ČEZ, the largest Czech corporation, earned a record profit of 196 billion crowns marking a growth in earnings despite the recession. The company, of which 69.4% is owned by the Czech government with the rest in private hands, is being questioned about its role in influencing policy as well as the outcome of the elections by placing its key allies and board members in ministry positions. It is also under pressure to explain its inflated expenditure (paid for by taxpayer money) for the construction of new power plants. The Ecological Law Service puts the excess at 30 billion crowns above market value.

In contrast, the latest estimate is that cuts in social benefit spending could save the Czech government about 11 billion crowns.

Jaroslav Spurný, assistant editor of the weekly Respekt pertinently writes:

“The amount at which the Ecological Law Service arrived showed that the three Czech brown coal power plants are overpriced by 30 billion crowns. We are witnessing either enormous waste or enormous theft. If it is true and the government doesn’t respond, we can forget about the reforms. They will be good for nothing, because what the state shaves off from social benefits, will be easily spent by ČEZ.“

3 Responses to “The newly-formed Czech government wages a war on welfare while state-run energy giant profits soar”

  1. Bernie says:

    Mila Terezo,
    I just saw this post on Facebook via the Roma Rights Network and was very interested indeed to read it – and all your other blogs, which I’ve just read. What great work you are doing providing information and insight. Your perspective is very valuable and I will spread the word about your reports. Good luck with your fellowship and in the future, and I look forward to reading all your blogs on the situation here.
    Best wishes,
    Bernie Higgins

  2. Tereza Bottman says:

    Bernie, I am glad you found my post of interest. Thank you for your comment.

  3. [...] addition to labor unions, the newly elected right-wing government’s priorities have been criticized by a host journalists, social critics, academics as well as activists. Many of them are now [...]

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Freedom of the Press: How do Czech media fare?

Tereza Bottman | Posted July 12th, 2010 | Uncategorized

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Journalists throughout Europe have been sounding an alarm about the trends of increasing conglomeration, censorship and diminishing freedom of the press. Where does the Czech Republic stand in terms of media freedom? How do independent vs. corporate media outlets fare? Is there room for human rights journalism in the current media environment? These are some questions I am seeking to answer, seeing them as relevant to my fellowship with the Dženo Association, which is partly a media organization with a history of magazine publishing, broadcasting and training journalists.

In its 2007 report surveying media freedom in the European Union, the Association of European Journalists found that freedom of the press is relatively unrestrained in the Czech Republic:

The Czech media enjoy a comparatively high level of media freedom and independence, reflected in the relatively mature media scene and the lack of high-profile violations of the media’s ability to report on events in public life. Reporters Sans Frontieres, in its Press Freedom Index for 2006, ranked the Czech Republic in 5th place out of 168 countries assessed.

However, the Czech Republic’s press freedom rating has since plummeted to the 24th place. Also, the report raises several concerns, among them subtle pressure sometimes exerted by business and political interests to influence reporters. Also among the report’s criticisms is the problem that “Czech journalists sometimes fail to demonstrate the independence of mind and professional rigour needed to report adequately on sensitive issues,” and that they “have shown a lack of independence and determination in questioning politicians and their decisions.”

The concerns above are echoed by media expert and Czech journalism professor Jaromír Volek, who writes:

The continuing influence of the state on the public service sector is an. . . issue. This has been de facto “privatized” by the parliamentary parties and used as a megaphone for their own political ambitions; in effect they use the media to shut off individuals not affiliated to a political party from the public debate.

Regarding the rigor needed for reporters to question authority and provide alternative angles, Volek asserts that Czech journalism exhibits “a surprising degree of conformity in approaches, which, in turn, results in the campaign-style promotion of social agendas and collective media interpretations.”

This reality is compounded by the fact that three of the four largest-circulation dailies “pursue a center-right political agenda,” while the vast majority of journalists themselves subscribe to center-right political views and reject the Left. In fact, a study by the media monitoring group Hermes of the most widely read daily, MF Dnes, showed that left-wing political parties were presented less favorably than the right. Mainstream Czech press is thus clearly slanted ideologically, which has an impact on minority rights and social issue coverage. Pertinent to my fellowship is the fact that although a formal survey of the political preferences of the Roma community has not been carried out, the general assumption in and outside the Roma community is that the Roma are overall a left-leaning voter constituency.

The Association of European Journalists shares Volek’s view about the declining journalistic standards, which “tend to encourage passivity and acceptance of the status quo instead of vigilance.” The level of political debate and focus in reporting, says the AEJ analysis, is often “characterised by populism and an excessive focus on personality” and dominated by “dumbed-down” content.

But why this substandard quality of journalism in the Czech Republic? Both Volek and the Institute of Democracy for All, a media monitoring group, have argued that this deficiency is caused by the consolidation of ownership and commercialization, even “tabloidization“of the media.

After the fall of communism in 1989, a rush to privatize all state assets ensued. The Czech media were no exception.

“The Czech Republic,“ writes Milan Šmíd in “Media Ownership and Its Impact on Media Independence and Pluralism.”, a 2004 Peace Institute report, “was the first country in Central and Eastern Europe to award a nation-wide broadcasting license to a private person, and to allocate a complete network of frequencies formerly used by public television to private television. . . (By 1993), there were no state media in the country. Three former state media outlets, i.e. Czech Television, Czech Radio and the Czech Press Agency (CTK) already operated as independent public service companies. . . All other media companies were in private hands.“

Now with more than eighty percent of all state-run enterprises privatized, the Czech Republic, with a population of just over 10 million, has the highest concentration of foreign-owned press in Central and Eastern Europe after Poland.

Although 87 percent of Czech print media outlets are foreign-owned, with German and Swiss companies owning 80 percent of Czech newspapers and magazines, the media monitoring group Institute of Democracy for All asserts that commercialization, homogenization and a trend toward infotainment have much more of an impact on today’s journalism than the nationality of the media owners.

Volek expresses a similar analysis:

Unable to reconcile their former role with the demands of the new technology and economic pressures, journalists have gradually been “de-intellectualized” and reduced to administering the machinery of communication. The “new type of journalist” as a “media employee”, whose existence depends on respecting the dominant logic of infotainment has, for now, won out over the traditional role of the journalist as reporter and interpreter of events.

He continues: “Most of the Czech media have adapted to the economic realities of the market: the media is just one more commodity forced to adapt to market imperatives as it comes ever closer to being little more than infotainment.”

If mainstream journalists are so beholden to economic, and sometimes political pressures that content starts to become uncritical and tabloid-like, the role of independent media is even more important in terms of investigative reporting and of presenting of stories which may not have commercial appeal or mainstream political endorsement, but may be crucial to the understanding and reforming of the current political and social landscape in the Czech Republic. Such is the role media organizations like Romea, a Prague-based Roma news service, and my host organization Dženo which plans to launch an international, multilingual satellite broadcast on Roma issues and culture. The question is always that of funding and funding priorities.

“Media publishers and broadcasters support investigative journalism only exceptionally,” writes media analyst Milan Šmíd in the Peace Institute media study,” not because of its contentious nature, but because it is an expensive, time consuming and costly affair.”

The current economic crisis is creating yet another excuse for those with the purse strings to divest from social services and causes. Perhaps there are still those funders who see the value of independent media and are willing to support the voices of the underrepresented for the long haul. Media freedom and diversity as well as independent and probing journalism are signs of a healthy democracy.

One Response to “Freedom of the Press: How do Czech media fare?”

  1. Abisola Adekoya says:

    Wonderful post, Tereza! I’m so glad you’re bringing attention to this issue. Media scrutiny is one of the best ways to force a government to attend to the needs and interests of the marginalized.

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Even for Highly Qualified Roma Candidates, Racism Still a Barrier in Czech Job Market

Tereza Bottman | Posted July 1st, 2010 | Uncategorized

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“I am very upset,” says Milan Kováč, who is visiting the Dženo Association office.

“You need to try harder,” one of my office mates jokes sarcastically and we all laugh, but the laughter is tinged with a sense of letdown.

Mr. Kováč, holds a college business degree, knows five languages and has many years of professional experience in settings ranging from the non-profit and government to the private sector. He has, for instance, worked as Project Manager at both, the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the non-profit Athinganoi, an organization specializing in supporting Romani students in obtaining secondary and post-secondary education.

Since losing his job eight months ago, he has been searching for work. He has applied for more than sixty positions and has gone through an average of seven job interviews a week to no avail.

Recently, he applied for the position of Local Coordinator at the governmental Agency for Social Inclusion in Roma Localities, which employs only one Roma of the total of twenty-five staff. As a strongly qualified applicant and a Roma himself, he was convinced his chances were high, especially considering the fact that the role of the agency is to promote the integration of Roma in socially excluded regions in the job market, among its other missions.

Upon successfully completing the first phase of the interview process, Mr. Kováč was verbally invited back. However, soon he learned he was not selected for the second round of interviews.

Mr. Kováč’s experience is not unique. A multi-country study by the European Roma Rights Center, conducted partly in the Czech Republic, found this to be the case:

The most prevalent incidence of employment discrimination against Roma is at the job search stage and in the recruitment practices that companies apply. Raw, direct discrimination prevents applicants from even reaching the phase of the interview. Many companies have a total exclusion policy regarding the employment of Roma and practice across-the-board unmitigated discrimination against Romani applicants. As a result, Romani job-seekers are eliminated and excluded from the application process at the very outset; regardless of education, qualifications and competences for the job.

In his appeal letter, sent to the agency which rejected him after the first round of interviews, Mr. Kováč wonders whether the organizations in charge of eliminating barriers to equal participation in Czech society facing the Roma are truly “pro-Roma.“ He writes:

The Agency for Social Inclusion in Roma Localities was founded to advocate for the social inclusion of Roma . . . One of its roles is to promote the inclusion of Roma from socially excluded communities in the job market. There is also a whole host of non-governmental and non-profit organizations which present themselves as “pro-Roma.“ They champion an open attitude on the part of employers towards the Roma under the generous support of the European Social Fund. Are these organizations themselves actually open to employing the Roma and are they in reality practicing what they preach?

When the fact that not a single Roma advanced to the second round of interviews was criticized, Michael Kocáb, commissioner on human rights, who chairs the Monitoring Committee of the Agency for Social Inclusion in Roma Localities, responded that he was not aware that there were any Roma applicants interviewed to begin with. Mr. Kocáb has in the past said he is committed to increasing the number of Roma employees in the governmental agency. Additionally, Mr. Kováč was promised an appointment where he could present his case, but this meeting never took place. Instead, in the hall of the Office of the Government, in passing, he was told by the agency’s director that he was not chosen because he lacked the necessary qualifications, although he was clearly selected as a promising candidate earlier.

Many a study, including a 2008 report prepared jointly by the Government of the Czech Republic and the World Bank, conclude that the barriers for the Roma in the job market are largely due to a lack of skills and qualifications. But what about the Roma who do possess the experience and skills that match the position sought?

The above-mentioned 2006 ERRC study, Systemic Exclusion of Roma from Employment, states:

The mass-unemployment of working age Roma is most often perceived as a labour market supply- side issue and the high level of unemployment is attributed to Roma’s inability to find employment because of their low levels of education; out-of-date work skills and detachment from the labour market. Also because large segments of the Romani community lost out during the economic and industrial restructuring that occurred during the transition from Communism. Undoubtedly, these factors create very real barriers that reduce employability and exclude many Roma from work but there is another dimension – discrimination – which significantly aggravates the situation and causes systemic exclusion from employment for vast numbers of working-age Roma.

Mr. Kováč touches on the very issue of anti-Roma discrimination in his letter:

I want the society to know that the Roma are continuing their education, raising their qualifications, applying for quality work, but that still barriers, factors and influences exist which make it impossible to achieve success.

Unfortunately, both cronyism and racism still play a determining role in key decision-making in this country. Those with whom I have spoken who have been active in Roma rights advocacy for years confirm this reality, which the ERRC study enumerates and Mr. Kováč’s story illustrates.

One way to combat discrimination in the job search and recruitment stage, suggests ERRC, is to mandate the collection of data disaggregated by ethnicity and to monitor and respond, in a structural way, to inequities based on this data in order to improve job access for qualified Roma applicants. This is currently not done. The ERRC states:

There is strong evidence, from countries with the most effective measures to combat racial discrimination in employment, that workforce monitoring, including the collection of data on ethnicity, is a key means of obtaining statistical evidence to support positive actions to address under-representation of ethnic groups in the workplaces and more generally in specific occupations and sectors of the labour market. Monitoring, recording, reporting and responding to the ethnic composition of a workplace are key factors that guarantee the effectiveness and efficiency of equal opportunities policies.

More on the topic of data collection as a tool to combat discrimination in a later post.

8 Responses to “Even for Highly Qualified Roma Candidates, Racism Still a Barrier in Czech Job Market”

  1. Teresa Crawford says:

    Great post Tereza. Way to keep it real and at the same time reference solid research. Keep up the good work!

  2. Adepeju Solarin says:

    Woah! An average of 7 interviews a week, and still no job?? Thats pretty brutal! Glad the blogs are back up! :) Nice work!

  3. Martin V says:

    Jakou školu přesně vystudoval? Takové to všeobecné co jste napsala je o ničem.
    Pokud je pravda, že vystudoval nějaký humanitní obor, tak se nedivím, že ho na ty pozice které chtěl získat nevzali, protože s tou školou by na tu pozici nevzali nikoho, ani kdyby byl zelený, žlutý či fialový.

  4. Michal Proks says:

    So what? I’ve got a degree from Czech Technical University in Computer Science and still can’t get a job. As a white heterosexual male I am a member of the most discriminated group in Czech Republic.

  5. Tereza Bottman says:

    Pane Michale, in general, the unemployment rate for university educated Czechs is considered very low, statistically speaking (hovering near 3%). According to the study quoted in the post above, “two out of every three working age Roma are likely to experience employment discrimination. . . When asked ‘How do you know it was because you are Roma’, almost one in two people said they had been openly told by the employer, someone in the company . . . or the labour office.“ Research shows that the Roma are disproportionately affected by discriminatory practices in the job market. Why do you say that Czech, heterosexual males are the most discriminated group? Please explain.

  6. Tereza Bottman says:

    Martine V, má vystudovanou Business Administration a střední školu obchodně právní, k tomu dlouholeté pracovní zkušenosti s vysokou odpovědností.

  7. Tereza, although your findings sadden me greatly, I thank you for writing this article. Your reply to Mr Proks was borne out again and again when I asked the young professionals I photographed, who are Romani, what their job-seeking experiences had been. And this was before the economic downturn.

  8. Liza says:

    Dear Milan, if this can console you, I am in the same situation and I am from Italy. I have 2 high school diplomas (one is a teachers training high school qualification), a double LM degree (2 different fields), a LLM degree (faculty of law)all Cum Laude-distinction. I am a certified PCO Professional Congress Organbizer(events-meetings organization) and I even have a navigation book.
    I participated to a number of long internships for an Embassy, a EU political group, for a former MEP, for educational institutions etc travelling the world and the 7 seas…I worked for a number of agencies, ngos, lawyer etc etc (most of them demanded under the table conditions or volunteeir job). I have also a number of publication and participations to confereces but…when it comes to job interviews (if I ever get to participate to the vis-a-vis part of the job interview) they always ask the same question on why I had so much to do with Roma(obviously from my name and last name interviewers can not understand my “RootS” and interests, however, when they realize I receive a “cordial” good-bye. I have reached 36 months of unemployment now, of course, without any social and medical benefit because, for the state, my parents (two retired hard workers) have enough money to “still” pay my bills since I am “still” on their family certificate since I can not afford to pay a rent on my own without a job. I am 33 almost 34. I am a woman and I would not have kids and get married if I do not have any thing to offer them. I wanted to go to school, my family agreed, I am an educated woman of Romani ancestors that has a CV that proves a deep love for her-our people. At the end, there is no difference between me and my “sisters” on the camps..with or without education and qualifications it seem that none of them is useful enough to get a job to pay the bills. This is the honest truth and you have all my moral support on this issues wherever you are located on the Earth

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The new Czech government must make human rights a priority

Tereza Bottman | Posted June 29th, 2010 | Uncategorized

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The Czech government is currently undergoing a major transition. In the May 28-29 parliamentary elections, left-wing Social Democrats narrowly won, but center-right parties captured more votes overall. Of the 200 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the Parliament, 118 new candidates were replaced.

One of the pressing concerns for many activists in the Roma community is that the post of the Minister of Human Rights will cease to exist under the new administration, because it was established by the outgoing coalition. A number of Czech human rights organizations have joined together to lobby for the preservation of the role. The human rights leaders argue that the funds spent on the position are minimal and that if eliminated, the result would be “the weakening of the broad agenda for protection of human rights.”

Currently the post closest to that of Minister of Human Rights is carried out by the Human Rights Commissioner, Michael Kocáb, who was assigned this role by the Prime Minster after resigning from the post of Minister of Human Rights and Minorities under pressure last March. Even in this capacity, the commissioner serves an essential, government-level function in advocating for the marginalized communities in the Czech Republic. The Agency for Social Inclusion in Roma Communities, in existence since 2008, for instance, is a governmental agency in charge of coordinating integration activities in socially excluded regions, in cooperation with the commission on Human Rights and Minorities and under the leadership of the Office of Government.

Regarding the recent elections, the most significant development was that the voters, for the first time outright rejected the country’s two largest parties, which formed every government since the early 1990s, in favor of smaller parties. The campaign was the longest in Czech history, launched in the fall. The campaign was expensive as well, costing over 20 million dollars, with the top two parties spending nearly ninety percent of the total budget.

Of the 5,050 candidates running, only one was Roma. Lucie Horváthová ran on the Green Party ticket. The Greens did not make the minimum 5 percent margin of votes to qualify for a Parliamentary seat, however.

The three conservative parties which received the most votes have formed a right-wing coalition. These parties are: The Civic Democrats, TOP 09 and Public Affairs (VV). The newly elected lower house of the Parliament convened for its first session last week. The internim Prime Minister resigned and a new, conservative Prime Minister, Petr Nečas, was just named by President Václav Klaus yesterday.

The new government coalition stresses reducing the state budget deficit as one of its primary goals. However, the measures and concrete steps which will emerge from the current coalition talks must not sideline the human rights agenda. The battle for eliminating poverty and structural barriers to equitable education, health care, employment and affordable housing, must continue with the government taking a strong stance of support. The marginalized communities need a government-level representative to continue lobbying for their cause.

2 Responses to “The new Czech government must make human rights a priority”

  1. Isis Boody says:

    Hey, thanks…I’ve been waiting for information like that. Fantastic! That’s really informative. Well done!

  2. Christy Gillmore says:

    Hi Tereza! Hope all is going well for you! I came across this through the Peace and Collaborative Development Network, a call for article submissionas about Roma Rights: http://www.internationalpeaceandconflict.org/forum/topics/call-for-submissions-roma
    You’ve probably already seen it, as you seem to be up to date on every issue ever, and I don’t know how relevant it would be, but I thought I’d let you know about it.

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Interview with Dženo Association’s chairman Ivan Veselý

Tereza Bottman | Posted June 25th, 2010 | Uncategorized

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This video, featuring the Dženo Association’s founder and chairman Ivan Veselý, provides a very good overview of some of the issues facing the Roma community in the Czech Republic and in Europe at large. The video was created by Christina Hooson, 2009 Advocacy Project Peace Fellow with Dženo.

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Fellow: Tereza Bottman

the Dženo Association, Czech Republic


Czech Republic discrimination Dženo Association education elections employment EU Europe extremism government government spending health care history Holocaust housing human rights institutional racism integration Italy Ivan Veselý Iveta Demeterová journalism Karel Holomek media neo-Nazis Ostrava police poverty prejudice press racism radio reproductive rights resilience Roma Romani media Roma rights Rádio Rota segregation Slovakia social benefits socially excluded location Sri Kumar Vishwanathan women's empowerment ČEZ




2013 Fellows


Benan Grams
Meron Menwyelet
Mohammed Alshubrumi
John Steies


Andra Bosneag
Chris Pinderhughes
Emily MacDonald
Jasveen Bindra
Kelly Howell
Raymond Aycock
Sujita Basnet

Middle East

Mona Niebuhr

2012 Fellows


Dane Macri
Laura McAdams
Mallory Minter
Megan Orr
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Katie Hoffman


Adam Kruse
Alex Kelly
Alicia Evangelides
Heather Webb
Jesse Cottrell
Matthew Becker
Rachel Palmer


Claire Noone
Elise Filo

Latin America

Laura Burns

Middle East

Nur Arafeh
Thayer Hastings

North America

Caroline Risacher

2011 Fellows


Charlie Walker
Charlotte Bourdillon
Cleia Noia
Dina Buck
Jamyel Jenifer
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Rebecca Scherpelz
Scarlett Chidgey
Walter James


Amanda Lasik
Chantal Uwizera
Chelsea Ament
Clara Kollm
Corey Black
Lauren Katz
Maelanny Purwaningrum
Maria Skouras
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Beth Wofford
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Quinn Van Valer-Campbell
Samantha Hammer
Susan Craig-Greene

Latin America

Amy Bracken
Catherine Binet

Middle East

Nikki Hodgson

North America

Sarah Wang

2010 Fellows


Abisola Adekoya
Annika Allman
Brooke Blanchard
Christine Carlson
Christy Gillmore
Dara Lipton
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Josanna Lewin
Joya Taft-Dick
Louis Rezac
Ned Meerdink
Sylvie Bisangwa


Adrienne Henck
Karie Cross
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Kate Bollinger
Lauren Katz
Simon Kläntschi
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Laila Zulkaphil
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Tereza Bottman

Latin America

Karin Orr

North America

Adepeju Solarin
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2009 Fellows


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Abhilash Medhi
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Latin America

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2008 Fellows

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2007 Fellows

Johnathan Homer
Adam Nord
Audrey Roberts
Caitlin Burnett
Devin Greenleaf
Jeff Yarborough
Julia Zoo
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Maha Khan
Mariko Scavone
Mark Koenig
Nicole Farkouh
Saba Haq
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Ted Samuel
Alison Morse
Gail Morgado
Jennifer Hollinger
Katie Wroblewski
Leslie Ibeanusi
Michelle Lanspa
Stephanie Gilbert
Zach Scott
Abby Weil
Jessica Boccardo
Sara Zampierin
Eliza Bates
Erin Wroblewski
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2006 Interns

Laura Cardinal
Jessical Sewall
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Autumn Graham
Donna Laverdiere
Erica Issac
Greg Holyfield
Lori Tomoe Mizuno
Melissa Muscio
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Anya Gorovets
Barbara Bearden
Lynne Engleman
Yvette Barnes
Charles Wright
Sarah Sachs

2005 Interns

Eun Ha Kim
Malia Mason
Anne Finnan
Carrie Hasselback
Karen Adler
Sarosh Syed
Shirin Sahani
Chiara Zerunian
Ewa Sobczynska
MacKenzie Frady
Margaret Swink
Sabri Ben-Achour
Nitzan Goldberger

2004 Interns

Ginny Barahona
Michael Keller
Sarah Schores
Melinda Willis
Pia Schneider
Stacy Kosko
Carmen Morcos
Christina Fetterhoff
Stacy Kosko
Bushra Mukbil

2003 Interns

Erica Williams
Kate Kuo
Claudia Zambra
Julie Lee
Kimberly Birdsall
Marta Schaaf
Caitlin Williams
Courtney Radsch