The newly created Slovak Association of European Roma media welcomes Roma media outlets willing to join
The association was established in February 2013 and, as previously said, it is open to every Roma media in Europe interested to join. This informal association was created by the three Slovak Roma media organizations: Roma Media Center (MECEM), Roma newspaper Romano nevo lil and Gipsy Television.
I consider the birth of this association very important and therefore I would like to talk a little about its goals and intentions.
The association’s objectives are mutual cooperation and support. It also offers conditions for establishing a new professional Roma media. The association will group representatives of various Roma media outlets in Europe based on a voluntary approach and similar points of view concerning the Roma situation in Europe. Its aim is to deal with the incomprehensibility of information provided by mainstream media. Roma living in settlements often only speak Romani, their Slovakian is very bad and thus their access to information is also limited. The association intends to change this by emphasizing the importance of Romani language. It will ask Roma, but not pro-Roma media, for financial support.
Another important step will be the establishment of a coordinated procedure for offering information about Roma. Roma media should get the same space as the majority media, meaning that they should be equal not only in number of media channels per inhabitant but also when it comes to financing in order to function well. As the association’s memorandum states: “in order to reach the vision, it is important to support each other, to exchange information, and to define clearly the term ‘Roma media’, its criteria and the target group.”
The representatives of Roma media are aware of the need to further the prosperity of the Roma minority by keeping its traditions, language, and culture. Other ways include raising awareness about its identity, history and influencing the attitude of the majority towards Roma by offering unbiased and truthful information about Roma. They want to promote the agenda of human rights both on a national as well as on a European level.
For me, the birth of this association is a very important moment because the state of the so called ‘Roma question’ is under constant pressure from the majority population, while the current financial crisis only pours oil into fire.
I started working as an external correspondent for Romano nevo lil (Roma newsletter) around 1998. At that time it was one of the few representatives of Roma media in Slovakia. There was also the newspaper “Sam adaj” (We are here), and instead of support there was a clear competition among those two, and not only when fighting for finances. Then the Roma Press Agency (RPA) started operating in 1999. I began my work there as an editor in 2002. I think we achieved prominence on a par with non-Roma media quite quickly. Our news and publicity were made professionally and bringing in vast amounts of previously inaccessible information. Non-Roma media used to cite us on a daily basis and we succeeded in bringing well-balanced information and introducing Roma communities and individuals to the Slovak media. While RPA was published electronically, and had the majority population as its target audience, RNI was a printed medium which would arrive into communities and towns for free. Through RPA we wanted to change the perception of non-Roma inhabitants who were getting deadly shots of negativism towards Roma from the mainstream media. RNI was offering information to Roma from villages not only in Slovak but also in Romani, in keeping with the fact that Roma were its target group. Through different means, both media groups tried to reach the same goal, to raise the standard of living in Roma communities and to present a true picture of Roma.
However, rivalry stepped in among those two media also, not so much because of who was better, but because of the money at stake, as the existence of both depended on financial support. I was working for both media as there were some themes that needed to be conveyed to Roma and some to non-Roma. So I did not have it easy, but I always encouraged mutual cooperation instead of rivalry and spitefulness. Both media were fighting on two different fronts but fighting for the advancement of the same sensitive theme, the advancement of Roma.
So rivalry was definitely the wrong approach here. The only principle that would have worked is cooperation. Roma media have a different mission than mainstream media. While mainstream media informs, we struggle to change points of view, and try to save what major media attempts to destroy.
Roma do not have an easy standing in society. Various accusations are bombarding us from every side and various people are trying to earn a fortune on us or to build a career. We are simply at everyone’s disposal as an “easy” subject. Therefore Roma media do not have an easy task and the cooperation is inevitable. I appreciate very much that RPA and RNI managed to agree on mutual cooperation even though it took them a very long time. The other Roma media in the world should follow by supporting each other. By doing so not only they increase their chances for financial help but they will also become stronger and more coordinated.
I would also defend pro-Roma media to some degree. Even though they are not Roma media per se, they try to improve the image of Roma in international circles. They are exceptions in that they do not only care about earning money but are really interested in Roma. They offer Roma or non-Roma journalists writing about Roma big media space, a space accepted by the majority.
Gossip magazines or news stations or mainstream media can compete as much as they want. But we should hold together to reach the goal, and by doing so we should underline the principles of Roma media.