Homel rights defenders re-address Minister of Internal Affairs on “Roma issue”
Homel human rights defenders Marya Klimovich and Ales Yauseyenka submitted another statement to Interior Minister Ihar Shunevich urging him to promptly address the so-called “Roma issue”. In June 2012, they filed an appeal to the Interior Minister with a request not to specify the nationality of criminals in mass media publications, so that it did not lead to discrimination based on nationality.
The issue primarily concerns
the Roma community. Earlier,
the human rights activists sent their appeals to the ideology department of
Homel regional executive committee, urging the officials to instruct the journalists
of state-run media. The
department officials promised to do so and warn journalists about the
inadmissibility of inciting ethnic hatred.
In the summer of 2012, the human rights defenders received a reply from the Interior Ministry’s Head of Information and Public Relations Department Kanstantsin Shalkevich. He wrote that “the staff of the regional departments of the Interior are constantly involved in awareness-raising activities in order to avoid specifying in public statements the racial, ethnic and religious affiliation of criminals and offenders.”
However, as a result of monitoring the newspaper “Na Strazhe” ("On Guard") for the last six months, the human rights activists have found articles which, in their view, offended the national dignity of the Roma community. The articles entitled “Gypsy. Crossed Palm with Silver”, “Gypsy People. Looked Around” and others were cited by the applicants as an example that the promise of the officials not to indicate the nationality of the criminals was not kept.
The human rights defenders urge the Minister to inform the authors of articles that Belarus does not have “bad” and “second class” nations, and that the incitement of ethnic hatred is punishable by law.
“Reporters of the police newspaper continue to generalize in their articles, and indicate the nationality of criminals, because they do not consider it necessary to respect the national dignity of Roma. Apparently, the authors believe that the Roma are illiterate, and they do not read newspapers and do not complain. Meanwhile, the paper “Na Strazhe” is read not only by the police, but also members of their families, and more. Such publications are bad for readers, because they form the treatment of Roma as inferior people, that can be offended, detained, and not to be punished for that. We believe that the police newspaper should strictly adhere to the law, especially as the head of the Information and Public Relations Department promised to conduct explanatory work,” says Marya Klimovich.