Government campaign spotlights successful minorities

(PDM staff with CTK)

10 November

This year's government campaign "Together Against Racism" presents successful people from ethnic minorities and foreigners living in the Czech Republic, and not victims of racial attacks, the campaign creators and government representatives told reporters yesterday.

The already 6th government campaign against racism is to support mutual tolerance and help remove prejudices against minorities and foreigners in Czech society.

"We are fighting against racism by respecting every individual," government human rights commissioner Svatopluk Karasek (junior ruling Freedom Union, US-DEU) said.

The campaign organisers pointed out that the situation in the Czech Republic and the public stance on foreigners has been gradually improving.

Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek (Social Democrats, CSSD) said that racism and tolerance are political topics of major importance in all civilised countries.

However, he added, political slogans must not conceal lack of interest or incompetence to cope with racism which is not yet "a unique phenomenon" in the Czech Republic, but its manifestations reflect a stance deeply rooted in Czech society.
As in past years, the government earmarked CZK four million for the campaign against racism in 2005. The finances were spent on ads in the press and in the streets, as well as on websites, T-shirts and postcards.

They depict faces of successful representatives of ethnic minorities, for instance Romany driver Ivan Saray who graduated from university, Romany Andela Haluskova who succeeded in the Czech Miss beauty contest and Russian actor Alexandr Minayev currently starring in the popular TV series Street.
"They are no artificial celebrities. The campaign should show that every man is unique," Filip Smoljak, one of the campaign authors, said.

Within the campaign, the Archa theatre in Prague and the Refugee Facilities Centre have organised a joint theatre performance with asylum seekers playing.

The campaign is also accompanied by courses for clerks and judges to inform them about regulations concerning cases of unequal treatment and discrimination.
The new penal code, which the lower house is debating, should implement more severe sentences for racial acts and manifestations.

Deputy justice minister Ivo Hartmann said that entrepreneurs and restaurant keepers who refuse to sell goods and services to people because of their race or nation can face one year in prison and a ban on their business, or possibly three years in prison in case of repeating such acts.

(USD1=24.911 crowns)

CTK news edited by the staff of the Prague Daily Monitor, a Monitor CE service.