Letter: Czech `racism'

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The Independent Culture

Czech `racism'

Sir: To see one's country denounced in the pages of your newspaper as "a harbour of fascism" ("Strangers in their own land", 6 August) is shocking and upsetting, all the more so when it is untrue. The article is unfair and misrepresentative, and several points are in need of clarification.

Firstly, there have been no more than 10 racially motivated murders in the Czech Republic since 1989 - not about 40 as your correspondent claims. Racist attacks are not "sanctioned by the police". The Czech police, in common with other police forces in central Europe, are underpaid and overworked, but try nonetheless to give these incidents the attention they deserve.

With regard to the terrible incident when the Romany woman was thrown into the Elbe, the report is particularly biased. Your article makes no mention of the fact that a (white) Czech female journalist risked her life by jumping into the icy waters to try to save the victim. She suffered serious injuries which required long-term hospital treatment.

It is not only the Romany minority who suffer long waiting periods for accommodation. Education is as available to the Romany as it is to Czechs, but for a variety of complex social reasons, Romany children are often unable to cope with the demands of school. Children who cannot keep up are sent to special schools - NOT "schools for the mentally handicapped".

Racial discrimination and prejudice undoubtedly exist in the Czech Republic and there have been problems with applying the laws in relation to racist attacks. However, it is grossly unfair to brand 45 per cent of its inhabitants as racists. InJune's elections, the extremist Republican Party gained less than 4 per cent of the vote and failed to get to parliament. Other European democracies which give much greater support to such parties are not labelled "harbours of fascism".