The families of Prime Minister Jan Fischer and Interior Minister Martin Pecina have been given police protection in the wake of the biggest-ever operation against far-right extremists. Deputy police chief Jiří Houba described the move as a preventative measure made in view of an expected radicalization of far-right groups following a series of raids against far-right radicals around the country. Ten people have been charged with “promoting a movement aimed at suppressing rights and freedoms”. They are all members of the National Resistance movement, one of the two biggest ultra-right groups in the Czech Republic. Prime Minister Fischer has said that he considers the fight against growing extremism a top priority.
The Romany language is dying out in the Czech Republic, but not as rapidly as some had feared, suggests a survey conducted by linguists at Prague’s Charles University. The results of the first study of its kind in this country suggest that around 30 percent of the Czech Republic’s Roma minority are fluent Romani speakers. Earlier today, I met one of the survey’s authors, Helena Sadílková, and asked her first whether the Romani spoken in the Czech Republic varied from that spoken elsewhere in Europe:
Academics from Charles University’s Faculty of Arts have found that only one in three Roma under the age of 18 are sufficiently fluent in the Romani to pass the language on to later generations. The study found that roughly the same number have a passive understanding of the language. The head of the research team, Jan Červenka, said even worse results had been expected due to the heavy language assimilation of recent decades. On the whole, roughly half of the Czech Republic’s Roma population is fluent in the Romani language.
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.