SINCE Slovakia achieved independence 20 years ago, Roma living in segregated communities have posed one of the country’s largest human rights problems. Many solutions have been proposed by politicians, activists, and the international community, but none have done much to ease the situation. What’s more, much of the information that the public receives about the Roma is limited and second-hand and consequently is frequently crowded out by myths and stereotypes.
The Sme daily, a major broadsheet newspaper linked with the most-read web portal in the country, sme.sk, has now launched a new portal, dedicated solely to the Roma problems.
“The distance from Bratislava to a Roma settlement in eastern Slovakia is greater than the distance from London to New York, and even greater in time because it would take us from the present time back to the days when there was no running water nor sewage systems,” Matúš Kostolný, the editor-in-chief of Sme, wrote in his editorial to the first issue of the ‘Sme in Kecerovce’ series, in which he concluded that getting to know about the lives of our closest neighbours, but still worlds apart, must be the basis for any solutions to the problems of segregated Roma communities.
After a successful in-depth series on health-care in Trnava hospital by a group of Sme reporters who spent an entire week on the scene, the daily decided to launch a similar project focusing on the problems of Roma in the village of Kecerovce.
Kecerovce has struggled for years with poverty, unemployment, and systematic segregation of Roma from non-Roma. The reports, published in Sme over the first week of June 2013, covered a number of troubling topics, including school discrimination, problematic relations with the non-Roma and outright criminality. Positive reports highlighting people who have overcome the dire conditions in the ghetto were also part of the series.
“In order to improve the situation, good ideas, strong will and money are needed, but also an open and frank public discussion,” Sme deputy editor Lukáš Fila wrote in his introductory editorial to the ‘Sme in Kecerovce’ series.
In an attempt to encourage public discussion on this topic, Sme has launched the web portal,
romovia.sme.sk, focusing exclusively on Roma issues, with the aim to become “the main source of information for all those who are interested in Roma topics”, Fila wrote. The new portal was created to inform the public, but also to give advice to those living in the problematic areas, be they Roma or non-Roma.
“Miracle solutions do not exist,” Fila wrote. “But if Slovakia is to be a home for all, we must have insight into the problems of those for whom life here is toughest.”
Sme is published by the Petit Press publishing house that shelters also The Slovak Spectator.
10. Jun 2013 at 0:00 | Compiled by Spectator staff