The Romany pop group Gipsy.cz are the Czech Republic’s entry in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. After Czech Television itself selected the band to represent the country in Moscow, the station’s viewers picked the song they are going to perform, Aven Romale. Gipsy.cz are currently in the Russian capital preparing for the first semi-final on Tuesday, but shortly before they left I spoke to the group’s leader Gipsy (real name Radoslav Banga). My first question: what does representing the Czech Republic at Eurovision mean to you?
In one of its final acts before leaving office, the Czech government has just approved a new strategy to deal with a rise in far-right extremism. The release of the plan follows a period in which neo-Nazis, said to be increasingly organised, have attacked members of the Roma minority and clashed with the police. But what actual measures will be taken to deal with the far-right?
The Czech government on Monday unveiled a new strategy in the fight against extremism, which should involve repression and prevention in equal measure. The strategy involves closer cooperation between town mayors, the police, state attorneys and judges in preventing extremist gatherings from taking place, pinpointing offences when they happen and punishing the offenders. Interior Minister Ivan Langer said the rise in extremism in recent years was all the more dangerous in that it had growing public support and that extremist organizations now had lawyers to advise them how to stay within the margin of the law while spreading their propaganda. He said the state must intensify its efforts to counter this, at all levels.
Around 2,500 Romanies took to the streets in 13 towns and cities around the Czech Republic on Sunday to protest against the growing threat of racism and extremism. In their first-ever nationwide protest, members of the country’s largest minority accused the government of not doing enough to protect them.
Members of the Roma minority held peaceful demonstrations around the country on Sunday in protest against growing extremism in the Czech Republic. In the town of Chomutov the protest ended prematurely after it was attacked by right-wing extremists. The mass protests were sparked by a recent arson attack on a Romany family which left a two-year-old girl fighting for her life. The organizers of the first-ever nation-wide Romany protest say Sunday’s gathering was contrived as a peaceful event but they will not hesitate to fight back if their lives are threatened by neo-Nazis. Romany vigilante groups are now operating in some parts of the country.
The Romanies, or Roma, are the Czech Republic’s biggest minority. The relations between Roma and the majority population have long been troubled but recently took a turn for the worse. The community is outraged by the rise in extremist and neo-Nazi movements. For the first time ever, Romany NGOs are organizing a nationwide protest against extremism that will take place on Sunday.
Research conducted by the Czech charity People in Need two years ago suggested that nearly three-quarters of school-age boys in this country had a ‘negative attitude’ towards homosexuality. A recently published European study indicates that that situation is not improving, and that homophobia is still a widespread problem in Czech schools. In light of the findings, the Czech government is producing a teachers’ manual to tackle the problem. Earlier, I spoke to Lucie Otáhalová who is behind the project. I asked her first about the scale of the problem
Former Ku Klux Klan head David Duke will reportedly return to the Czech Republic if his case goes to trial, the Czech media have reported. A Czech associate of Mr Duke’s, linked to the far-right extremist movement, said that he had been in contact with the former Klan leader, saying he was prepared to return to defend himself. David Duke was arrested in Prague last Friday on the suspicion of supporting movements aimed at suppressing human rights. Czech police questioned him for seven hours and recommended he be held in custody; but he was released and ordered to leave the country following a decision by the state prosecutor.
In the Czech Republic an incredibly high number of children – over 20,000 – are living in institutional care. Very often they are from poor families, with an extremely high percentage coming from the country’s Roma minority. This serious and disturbing social issue is the focus of a new art exhibition in Prague.
A Czech Romany NGO, Roma Realia, has asked Pope Benedict XVI to open a debate on the status of Romanies in Europe. In a letter to the head of the Roman Catholic Church, the activists said what they called a growing aversion between Czechs and Romanies might get out of control, while Czech politicians don’t know how to deal with such issues. The activists also criticized the interim PM, Jan Fischer, for his decision to abolish the position of minister for minorities and human rights in the new government.
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