Sunday, April 18, 2010


Roma in the News

“Gypsy child thieves”. No end in sight – Call for support

Mr. Valery Novoselsky, Editor, Roma Virtual Network.

Dear friends and colleagues,

This is to inform you that we have just filed a complaint with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), where the British TV documentary “Gypsy child thieves” was broadcasted on 29 and replayed on 30 March 2010.

Like in other countries, the presentation of this documentary has given raise to numerous media articles suggesting that Europe is flooded by Roma children who assault innocent tourists and locals.
In its advertisement of the documentary, ABC says: “If you’ve travelled in Europe you will know the dangers of the Roma, or Gypsy, children who stake out the major tourist centres and swarm around visitors aiming to stealing their money, credit cards and other valuables.

Now Producer Liviu Tipurita, using hidden cameras and some remarkable detective skills, shows how these children operate. Far from acting alone he reveals how many of them are involved in a system of organised crime that stretches right across the continent, a system the police say they cannot stop.” (emphasis added)
With the producer of the documentary, ABC concludes: “There’s little doubt this is now a major problem across Europe. But will the authorities confront it and create alternatives for the children involved, or will the upsurge in crime simply lead to violence and vilification of the Roma people?”

Like in other countries, the presentation of this documentary has given raise to heinous comments on internet sites:
“Came across plenty while backpacking across Europe last year. They’re scum.”, writes “MattJ” on whirlpool.
“metalstorm” says: “they enslave and traffick their own children, turning them into beggars/thieves, send their women out to whore while they play cards and drink vino all day, they have no legitimate skills.”
“davmel” concludes: “Their society and upbringing is corrupted at every level. Continuing to excuse it after more than half a century is not going to improve the situation.”

On the programme’s website, one contributor, “SophisticatedTorpedo” compares “gypsies” with “other rogues and gnats”.
He says: “I was watching that Matrioshki show, about a Belgian men’s club engaged in human trafficking from East Europe and Thailand, they were low on funds and needed some quick staff at one point, they could only afford a VW bus full of gypsies.”
Australia is only one stop on the journey of this documentary. Originally a BBC production, it has already travelled to Belgium and Switzerland and has probably also been broadcasted in Italy and Spain. But according to the Belgian TV station RTL TVI, the documentary has been sold to 26 TV stations, including public ABC and the Japanese NHK.

The documentary has been granted several media awards including the Best TV Feature Story of the Year award of the Foreign Press Association, for which the documentary is “an example of truly excellent TV story- telling, brilliant camera work & fabulous visuals resulting in a film that unfolds and develops beautifully to shine a powerful light on a gripping story” and the Current Affairs – International award of the Royal Television Society, which sees it as “A fantastic achievement. A powerful eye-witness account and an outstanding example of story-telling.”
Chachipe’s protests against this documentary have nevertheless yielded some success.

In reaction to Chachipe’s complaint, the Council of Europe Migration and Roma Department wrote to the Editorial Complaint Unit of the BBC, setting out that the word Gypsy, which is used throughout the documentary, is indeed considered as offensive by most Roma. It refuted the vision that begging and stealing have become common practice among East European Roma and concluded that the documentary “ends up fueling the growing anti-Gypsyism in Europe”. (10 March 2010)

In its advice to the Belgian Media Supervisory Authority, CSA, the Belgian Centre for Equal Opportunities wrote: “the report covers real facts and situation, which all pertain to the sphere of organised crime: organised begging, pickpocketing, human trafficking, forced marriages of minors,…. Through its cursory reference to other topics such as the situation of vulnerability and precarity, which a large majority of Roma is facing, this report may lead to the conclusion that the majority of Roma from Romania are criminals, or even, as it is said by one of the contributors, that the fundament of Roma culture is theft and the exploitation of young children and in particular girls .” (18 March 2010)
Amnesty International also issued a statement to the BBC.
While the BBC has persisted on its conviction that “the allegations of the programme were supported by facts and there was clear editorial purpose in reporting serious and widespread criminal behaviour” so that “any offence which was caused was justified in the public interest” (Colin Tregear, Director, Editorial Complaints Unit, 29 Januar 2010, emphasis added), it seems nevertheless have realised the validity of our arguments.

For instance, the faces of children, which appeared uncovered in the documentary, have been obscured (see: BBC: How Gypsy gangs use child thieves, 2 September 2009).
The documentary has also been removed again from Youtube, where it was displayed over weeks.

However, our request remains to the BBC:
- to recognize its mistake and issue a public apology to all the Roma whose image has been insulted by this documentary,
- to broadcast another programme on the tremendous negative impact of anti-Gypsyism on Roma communities throughout Europe,
- and, finally, to withdraw the documentary from circulation before its causing even more damage to the Roma community.
In order for this campaign to succeed, we need your support:
Don’t wait before the documentary is brought to your country!
Stop it now by writing to the BBC Worldwide (for addresses click here) and asking it to stop distributing a documentary which does no more than to perpetuate century old stereotypes about Roma and fuels anti-Roma ressentment.
We would appreciate receiving a copy of your letter!

For further information about our activities against this documentary, please visit our website! We are looking forward receiving your suggestions!
Murat Haliti and Karin Waringo
Chachipe a.s.b.l.

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