Representatives of 56 member countries of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe met in Prague this week for a conference on anti-Semitism in public discourse, hosted by the Czech Foreign Ministry. The participants called for more decisive steps to combat expressions of hatred and intolerance, and stressed the need for better data on anti-Semitic incidents. RP talked to Rabbi Andrew Baker, the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on Combating Anti-Semitism, about the Prague meeting.
Over three thousand senior citizens and people with disabilities gathered in Prague and Brno on Tuesday to protest against the government’s social welfare reform plans. The demonstration was called by the National Council for People with Disabilities which claims that the proposed measures will lower the living standard of those who most need support and will reverse much of what has been done to help disabled citizens lead an active and fulfilling life. One of the most controversial measures is a new set of criteria according to which benefits would be allotted. The government says it will make the system simpler and more effective, those concerned say it will rob them of the benefits they have, leaving them isolated and home-bound.
Police intend to prepare massive security precautions ahead of a May Day gathering of rightwing youths in the centre of Brno, Chief of Police Petr Lessy announced Friday. Mr Lessy told the Czech Press Agency that officers from other regions would be on site to monitor the event and that he wants to send the message that such groups are unwelcome in Brno, where they have attempted to hold rallies before. The youth association in question is associated with the former Workers’ Party, an extremist organisation that was banned last year.
Czech men earn on average 13 percent higher salaries than women in the same positions, according to a poll by the website platy.cz released on Wednesday. The poll also found that differences between men’s and women’s salaries increase with age; in the age group of 17 to 24 year olds, men make 11 percent more than women while the difference is nearly 20 percent in the age group between 35 and 44-year-olds. The gap between men’s and women’s salaries in the Czech Republic has been criticized by a number of NGOs; last year a report by the OECD said the gap was wider than in most developed countries.
Over 500 demonstrators gathered in the town of Nový Bydžov, north-east of Prague, on Saturday to express their views on the town’s policy in dealing with problem inhabitants, mainly Romanies. A gathering of 300 ultra right supporters backed the mayor’s demand for greater powers, including the right to cancel welfare benefits, expel problem inhabitants who do not have permanent residence in the town and take a tougher line in collecting debts. Another 200 protesters, mainly Romanies demonstrated near-by. Police were out in force to keep the two groups apart. Minor skirmishes are reported, and one demonstrator is reported to have suffered light injuries when he clashed with mounted police. Some Romanies had left the town fearing for their safety and many shops were closed for the day.
Close to 1,000 demonstrators are expected to descend on the town of Nový Bydžov on Saturday to express their views on the town’s policy in dealing with problem inhabitants. The town mayor is leading a campaign backed by 51 towns, demanding greater powers in dealing with problem citizens, predominantly Romanies. The demands include the right to cancel welfare benefits and increase the municipality’s powers in collecting debts. Four different organizations have called demonstrations in the town centre on Saturday including ultra-right and left-wing groupings. Police are expected to be out in force to maintain order.
A higher court in Olomouc handed out on Tuesday stricter sentences for an arson attack against a Romany home that occurred last March in the city of Ostrava, in the northeast of the country. A young man, who threw a firebomb into his neighbours’ house, was sentenced to four years in jail after he was originally given a three-year suspended sentence. His mother who knew about the planned attack and did nothing to prevented, landed a sentence of 7.5 years although she previously landed 18 moths. No one was hurt in the attack but the court in Olomouc said that is was intended to kill the inhabitants of the house.
One of the gravest problems facing Czech society is the situation of the country’s Romany minority. According to official estimates, there are between 150,000 and 300,000 Romanies living in the country; they face disproportionately high unemployment and continued discrimination in housing and education. Some 80,000 of them live in socially excluded locations. To assist the local authorities in improving the living conditions in such cities and towns, the Czech government set up in 2009 the Agency for Social Inclusion in Romany Localities. The agency
A new report by Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg, sees “deeply-rooted anti-Gypsyism” as one of the main obstacles to Roma’s inclusion in the Czech society. The report, which was released in Brussels on Thursday, also highlights continued segregation that the country’s Roma community faces in education and housing. Mr Hammarberg, who visited the Czech Republic in November 2010, noted frequent racist and anti-Roma discourse among leading politicians and the media, and said the country should strengthen its efforts and implement inclusive policies.
A Czech court gave out jail sentence of up to four years on a group of youths who carried out a racial attack on a Roma teenager. The regional court in the eastern city of Ostrava gave out two four-year sentence and one of three years. Three others in the group were given suspended sentence for the attack in the nearby town of Havířov. Another two were acquitted due because of a lack of evidence. Their victim suffered serious head injuries with the court told that he could have been killed during the attack in November 2008.
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