September 10, 2010
European Headlines: Roma Are Constantly Pressured
The Times media reporter Brian Stelter, in an excellent analysis of the U.S. media’s coverage of the Koran-burning story in Florida, explores the question of how news outlets have contributed to the intolerant pastor’s sudden rise to fame. The article looks at how Mr. Jones used “the news lull of summer and the demands of a 24-hour news cycle to promote his anti-Islam cause.” While the New York Times is questioning the validity of the media’s focus on the Koran-burning day, the European press is raging about the plight of Europe’s Roma population. A wave of reports, editorials, and opinion pieces on the situation of Roma was triggered by the recent decision by the French government to expel up to a thousand Roma individuals to Romania and Bulgaria. The EU Observer covered the European Parliament’s demand to immediately stop Roma expulsions from France. The E.U. parliamentarians adopted a resolution, in a 337 to 245 vote, rejecting “any statements which link minorities and immigration with criminality and create discriminatory stereotypes” and directly referencing French President Sarkozy’s inflammatory remarks about ‘gypsy criminality’. The Parliament’s only representative of Roma origin, MEP Livia Jaroka, will head an internal working group, set up by the center-right European People’s Party, to create specific policy recommendations for a policy for the economic and social inclusion of Roma. However, Ms. Jaroka belongs to the same European People’s Party (EPP) to which the French President is affiliated. EPP deplored the final text after tabling an alternative resolution that did not criticize Paris and Brussels directly.A myriad of articles and publications are seizing the opportunity to offer coverage of the plight of Roma from different angles, including the struggle of Roma returnees to Romania; the effects of the French crackdowns on Roma people who remain in France; the ongoing preparations to demolish Roma camps in Italy; or the impunity in the violent mob attack against Roma in Poland.High-level public officials are also calling on better policies to promote Roma inclusion and combat discrimination of Roma. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, continues to call on governments to act and avoid feeding prejudice. Mr. Hammarberg, a longtime partner of Human Rights First, believes that “politicians should be very careful about language which can promote further prejudice against the Roma communities.”Human Rights First also continues to monitor cases of violence targeting Roma individuals. We will also honor Viktória Mohácsi, a former member of the European Parliament’s European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party and a tireless advocate for Roma rights, at our annual Human Rights Award Dinner in October.