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Watchdog report, September 2013 – Czech Republic

“I don’t vote for Blah Blah”“I don’t vote for Blah Blah”

With approaching premature parliamentary elections, anti-corruption initiative of 20 watchdog organizations Reconstruction of the State (we informed about it in March) started a new campaign “I don’t vote for Blah Blah”. The campaign aims at getting written and signed obligations of the candidates they will support anti-corruption laws if they are elected. Those, who will not accept the commitment, will be marked within the campaign with a comic bubble containing “Blah Blah”. The voters will be also provided the information about who blocked the anti-corruption laws during the past election period. The watchdogs fulfils its function when exerting pressure on the politicians and political candidates and reminding the necessity of adopting series of anti-corruption laws.

Analysis: no political party voted in favour of the environment

Coalition of environmental NGOs Green Circle (“Zelený kruh“) published an analysis of voting of parliamentary political parties during past election period (2010-2013). The main finding is that this parliament was the worst one for the environment since 1994, when Green Circle started to prepare such analyses. From 38 cases that were analysed, members of the parliament voted beneficially for the environment only in 45% of the cases. Green Circle also published a list of twelve key issues related to the protection of the environment that will have to be dealt with by the upcoming government.

Transparent elections.Transparent elections 2013

Transparency International Czech Republic and Naši politici (“Our Politicians”) started a pre-election project “Transparent elections”. The watchdogs will perform monitoring of 10 specific criteria of the campaigns of 9 political parties. The watchdogs want to increase the transparency of the political campaigns and point out that the rules for political parties’ funding in the Czech Republic are insufficient.

The pre-election criteria that will be assessed are:

1. Does the party have a transparent bank account?
2. Does the party publish additional information about its funding besides the transparent account, e. g. information about its donors?
3. Has the party published the total sum of expected expenses on election campaign?
4. Does the party publish real-time reports about real expenses spent on the campaign?
5. Does the party publish a list of conveniences, such as discounts or free services provided to the party?
6. Does the party publish a number of volunteers working for the campaign and information about funds spent to arrange their work?
7. Does the party publish a calendar of all events held during the campaign on its website (meetings, discussions, cultural events…)?
8. Does the party publish who are the members of its election team, including the roles of individuals?
9. Does the party publish what agencies (media, PR, legal…) it cooperates with?
10. Is anyone launching supportive events for the particular party?

The watchdogs were already monitoring transparency of political campaigns during presidential elections in January 2013.

Open x Close contest started

OpenxClose contest.Watchdog initiative Otevřete.cz (“otevřete” means “open” in vocative case) started 11th year of contest Otevřeno x Zavřeno (Open x Close). The public will have a possibility to vote in two categories, in which 82 nominations in total were submitted. The contest judges openness of the public administration institutions – mostly their ability to give information, but also transparency of the decision making processes and participation of the public in them or censorship in the municipality newspapers. There are not just usual public institutions among the nominees, but also companies directed by the state or regional administrations and other subjects obligated to provide information according to the law. In category Open, mostly courts succeed with bringing important decisions, changing practices of various institutions in favour of the citizens. On the other hand, some institutions systematically reject to give the information and traditionally succeed in Close category. For example, Magistrate of the Capital City of Prague rejected to give the information for twelve times in a row with the same reasons. In all cases, superior institution found it illegal and ordered the magistrate to provide the information. The results will be announced on 1 October.

Map of the fair schools

League of Human Rights started up a new on-line portal Map of the Fair Schools. The site is aimed at supporting positive attitude of schools towards joint education of all the children. Teachers and directors of primary schools can share their experience with educating socially disadvantaged or disabled pupils that attend school together with the others. League of Human Rights already granted certificate “Fair School” to 23 schools that successfully educate children together regardless their physical and intellectual dispositions or ethnicity. The watchdog promotes a requirement of integration of persons with disabilities stipulated by Article 26 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union ensuring persons with disabilities right to integration and participation in the life of the community.

Greenpeace: give the money to the miners, not to Bakala!

Greenpeace Czech Republic promptly reacted to an announced intention of a private company OKD to close down a black coal mine Paskov in Silesia owned by a multibillionaire Zdeněk Bakala. Because closing the mine would end up in dismissal of 2.500 miners working there, Czech temporary government offered to donate 6 billion crowns (300 million USD) to the company. Greenpeace appealed to the government to give the funds rather to the miners than to the billionaire. In such case, each dismissed miner would receive 2.4 million crowns (120.000 USD) – enough to start a new life: start up a business, get an additional education or find a job elsewhere. Greenpeace points out it makes more sense to give out the money to the miners than to the bankrupting mine which would need more funds in the future anyway. Furthermore, Czech Republic exports three times more black coal than total Paskov production is. Greenpeace added it would appeal on European Commission to ban the transaction (donating the mine from the state budget) if it was really done as it is banned as a form of disrupting economic competition. By urging the state its commitments towards the EU, the watchdog fulfils its reminding function.

More anti-racist happenings

Although activity of Czech neo-Nazis slowed down a bit in September, there were still several occasions in which watchdogs and civic initiatives had to organize counter-demonstrations. Most visible were three rallies on 28 September. In Vítkov, chairman of Czech neo-Nazi political party DSSS (Workers’ Party of Social Justice) appeared with a speech on an empty square – just 30 opponents of the party were there. In Prague, 40 counter-demonstrators from initiative Blokujeme! (“We Block!”) stood up against 100 neo-Nazis gathered. In Krupka, more than 350 opponents of racism and neo-Nazism gathered, having Romanies and also German anti-fascists among them. Besides provocation, when a few neo-Nazis started to hand out their leaflets and newspapers to the Romanies and were quickly driven out by antifascists, only five neo-Nazis gathered on a previously announced rally.

More serious things happened in Ostrava on a previous day, 27 September, when around 500 neo-Nazis attempted another pogrom (after similar attempt in August) when they approached quarters inhabited by Romanies and attacked it with stones, bottles and literally anything else they found. The police dissolved the mob after some time. Small counter-demonstration “For tolerance among people” also took place there. Other, for September previously announced neo-Nazi rallies in Přerov, České Budějovice and Varnsdorf ended in fiasco. In all the cities, small anti-racist counter-happenings took place as well.

Criminal complaint against racist article

Czech watchdog NESEHNUTÍ filed a criminal complaint against the unknown authors of a racist article in Prostějovský večerník (“Evening Paper of Prostějov“) named “Gipsy attacks increase”. The article describes violence committed accordingly by Romanies in Prostějov. Besides the fact the article doesn’t content almost any clear information and all the quoted persons in the article are anonymous, the authors use language that violates the law. Terms like “inborn violence of gipsy citizens”, “typical gipsy straight fight” or “victims of gipsy terror” contribute to the whole impression of the article, which generalize Romanies and contributes to present dangerous wave of anti-Romany hatred. Moreover, the magazine published a photo of a Chinese football hooligans trashing a car, where artlessly changed a face of a Chinese to a one reminding Romany face. According to NESEHNUTÍ, the authors of the article committed two criminal offences: defamation of a nation, ethnic group or a race, and incitement to racial hatred. The watchdogs fulfilled their intervening function and promoted a requirement of non-discrimination stipulated by Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, according to which any discrimination based on any ground such as race, colour, ethnic or social origin, or membership of a national minority is prohibited.

To experience the city in a different way

Photo from the neighbourhood festival named “To Experience the City in a Different Way”.On 21 September, Prague watchdog Auto*Mat organized a neighbourhood festival named “To Experience the City in a Different Way”. At 39 places in Prague and also in Ostrava and Olomouc, streets were open to the people so they could establish social relationships in their surroundings, be socially active and transform the district they live in. Most of the events organized the local citizens themselves. The aim of the initiative is showing the people they can actively get involved into public space. Various excursions, workshops, cultural events and many other types of events took place. Auto*Mat also started a series of public events “Riverbank is Alive!”: in cooperation with Magistrate of the Capital City of Prague, Smetanovo nábřeží (riverbank) was closed for vehicular traffic on 15 September. Degustation of various cuisines and wine took place instead. Around 10.000 people stopped by, some of them also attended exhibitions and commented walking tours with the urbanists and architects. Similar events will take place on Smetanovo nábřeží during all the following Saturdays until 12 October.

Logo funduszy szwajcarskich, Ecorys oraz Euroregion Bałtyk.       

 

This text is a result of a research prepared within the project “Powerful Watchdogs” supported by a grant from Switzerland through the Swiss Contribution to the enlarged European Union. The report aims to show the up-to-date information regarding activity of watchdog organizations in a given country. The author refers to the classification on watchdog functions, to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the international concepts of the transparent governance.

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