Sunday, November 22, 2009

Save Roma media!

We, the editors at the Roma Media Centre (MECEM), based in Košice, Slovakia, turn via this letter to the European public, colleagues in the Roma media and European institutions, in order to publicly come forward and undertake the steps for asserting the needs and the preservation of Roma media in the EU.

As Roma journalists with long years of experience working in public media in Slovakia, we are always more urgently aware of the fact that despite different programmes and strategies, the Roma media in Europe, especially in the EU, are even more discriminated against. On one side, millions of euros are spent on so-called medialisation of the Roma problem: ways are sought to depict the Roma in the media; hundreds of non-Roma journalists are trained; dozens of people have made a business of this theme; but we presume to ask one question: Why does no one institutionally support the Roma media directly? We assume that the time
has come for the Roma to speak for the Roma!

We are at the halfway point of the Decade of Roma Inclusion (DRI), the largest project for the integration of the Roma at the turn of the twenty-first century. Who among us has seen any results from this process, this initiative which has thus far devoured a not inconsiderable amount of financing? We consider it shameful that from the start no independent programmes have been created within the framework of the DRI aimed at the institutional support of Roma media; that it's as if the Roma media have been deliberately kept dependent on small projects, purposely undernourished so that it is unable to reflect and to shape public opinion. Instead of direct support for Roma media, new networks which "care for" our development are constantly created, and not only do they eat up a great deal of money but in addition, someone "backstage" always wants to decide what is and what is not important to say. And this, in our opinion, is the main reason why year after year we must always ask the same question: how to depict the Roma in the media?

For this very purpose, Roma media have and must have the capability to shape public opinion in relation to the Roma. Indeed, who else but the Roma and Roma journalists should explain to the public who the Roma are?

Who else should serve as a model for thousands of young people in settlements and supply them with the energy needed to battle with prejudice than those whom they can view as the equally valued partners of other media stars? Educated people who perceive their problems and are able to point them out.

We are in our fourth year of working in public broadcasting at Slovak Television and our first year on public radio. What we say, we say from our own experience: a journalist of Roma origin, who furthermore speaks to the Roma in their mother tongue (in our case, this involves a bilingual programme -- Romanies-Slovak), is the best broker between the interests of the EU and national governments regarding integration (not assimilation) of the Roma. But such a journalist is able to address the majority viewer very effectively as well. Today only having a journalist of Roma origin on the screens of public television can show that the Roma are accepted as partners and that it is worthwhile to be educated. Unfortunately, attempts to push journalists of Roma origin through as individuals in the media, even though integrational, are not effective. Such people are under great pressure; they protect their own position and in the end result only stand as figureheads in the hands of the majority, which can then say: look, we have our own Gypsy! This is why it is time to say out loud: Support the Roma media, which will act as
partners of the non-Roma media, and the result of this coproduction and partnership will be integration as well as a space to address other serious problems. Just as has begun to happen in Slovakia.

We therefore address this letter to you:

If this is to improve in any way, we ask all at once that the EU, the administrative bodies of the Decade of Roma Inclusion and national governments create national development programmes that support the Roma media, strategic documents guaranteeing the permanent sustainability of programmes which will allow them to strengthen their institutional development and function in the position of partners with a decisive voice. This would be an expression of the genuine acceptance and
integration of the Roma. We are turning to the Slovak government, specifically the Slovak government's plenipotentiary for the Roma community, with a proposal for the creation of a national conception of development for the Roma media, and we are waiting for a response to it. We assume, however, that a common approach for a Roma media supported by institutes from the EU, would, however, be much more effective. We see this letter as a stimulus for starting a discussion on this subject. We assume that the time is now so long past, extremism is so long running riot, that this might be the last chance.

Kristína Magdolenová Jarmila Vaňová

Director Chief editor

More information:
www.rpa.sk
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