Political extremism, especially on the far right, has been a big issue in the Czech Republic over the last six months, with a strong perception that it is on the rise. It may have been a coincidence, but on Tuesday the subject was all over the news for a variety of reasons. Police arrested a number of neo-Nazis and announced the setting up of new riot squads, while many of the country’s political leaders signed a declaration condemning extremism.
Police said Sunday that they detained two men suspected of committing crime during a extreme right-wing demonstration in the south-eastern town of Jihlava on Saturday. One man was suspected of actions damaging individual rights and liberties, the other of abusing national, ethnic or racial groups. The event - attended by around 150 right-wing extremists - was billed as a march in memory of victims of WWII. It was banned by a town official soon after it started. The official said monitoring of the event and feedback from experts on extremism and the police showed it had a different character than that originally claimed. Czech town halls have faced problems in the past banning neo-Nazi marches, sometimes stemming from their own inability to follow the correct procedures.
An official from the south-eastern city of Jihlava banned an extremist right-wing demonstration soon after started on Saturday. The event - attended by around 150 right-wing extremists - was billed as a march in memory of victims of WWII. Monitoring of the event by the police and extremism as well as reports about it on the Internet convinced the official it had a different character. Experts said invitations to the event used slogans which echoed those of the Nazi SS and reports said it was attended by a known Austrian neo-Nazis and SS veteran. Around 250 people had gathered to protest the march. Czech town halls have faced problems in the past banning neo-Nazi marches, sometimes stemming from their own inability to follow the correct procedures.
On Wednesday it emerged that the head of Czech Radio’s Roma programming Anna Poláková had applied for asylum in Canada. The reporter said that she and her family could no longer cope with the constant attacks they found themselves under, leading her employers, Czech Radio, to speak out against rising levels of xenophobia in the Czech Republic.
The chief editor of Czech Radio’s Romany broadcast, Anna Poláková, has requested asylum in Canada for herself and her family. Ms Poláková cited indiscriminate attacks against her family in recent times as well as a general “radicalisation of society” as the cause for her decision. Romany activists have been encouraging emigration to Canada, and more than 600 Czech citizens have requested asylum there since the beginning of this year. 34 requests have been verifiably approved. The Czech Republic has been faced with a growing number of attacks on Romany families in recent months and a rise in anti-Roma rhetoric on the part of extreme right-wing political parties in the run-up to elections to the European Parliament.
Images of several Czech Romany families setting up home in a Toronto airport were aired by Canadian television over the weekend. On Wednesday, Czech authorities said the last of those pictured had moved out from the airport to a nearby town, but the images have fuelled speculation that visa restrictions may well be reintroduced for Czechs traveling to the North American state.
The Czech media is regularly ranked as one of the freest in the world, but recent events have called into question how well that freedom is utilised where political extremism is involved. Stemming from a number of heavily publicised incidents in recent weeks, many people are asking if it’s in fact media attention that’s actually feeding the occurrence of right-wing extremism. This week’s Talking Point discusses the events that have brought the journalists themselves into the spotlight.
A seminar on extremism in Prague has indicated that many Czech towns and
municipalities would welcome advice from experts on how to fight extremism,
the ctk news agency reported on Monday. Some of the mayors present
suggested the Interior Ministry should have an expert on extremism on its
staff who would advise them how to legally ban extremist events. Past
attempts to do so have frequently been overturned by courts of law, on the
grounds that they are poorly justified. The Interior Ministry is currently
preparing a manual to help municipalities cope with extremist activities.
The former government of Mirek Topolánek approved a strategy to fight growing extremist in early May, and the Interior Ministry is currently in the process of setting up a team of experts to fight extremism.
Relations between the majority population and the country’s Romany minority are perceived to be deteriorating. According to a poll conducted by the CVVM agency 85 percent of respondents –both Roma and non-Roma - said that relations were at their lowest ebb in the past decade and that coexistence was problematic. A growing number of Czech Romanies are once again seeking asylum in other states, predominantly Canada, saying that they fear for their safety amidst growing racist violence in the Czech Republic. An arson attack against a Romany family in which a two-year-old girl nearly burnt to death, has further heightened tensions.
Three Romanies were sentenced to four years in prison on Friday for a
racially motivated assault on a 35-year-old man. Two of them brutally beat
the victim in a town outside Karlovy Vary in western Bohemia in December
2007, repeatedly calling him “a white swine”. The third man, who was a
policeman at the time, was convicted of trying to cover up for them and
obstructing the investigation of the case. Two of the men appealed the
verdict on the spot.
The men faced sentences of up to ten years in prison but the court did not consider the attack to be attempted murder. The victim gave evidence under protection and will be given a new identity.
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