Tereza Bottman

Teresa Bottman (Dzeno Association): Teresa immigrated to the US from the Czech Republic in her early teens. She then dedicated herself to understanding immigrants and marginalized youth and worked for Slavic American Youth Zane, an online magazine of writing and art by Russian-speaking American youth; Community Art Share, a showcase of artists from underrepresented group; and Czechs in America, a bilingual pod cast highlighting the experiences of Czech immigrants in the US. Teresa holds a Master’s of Education degree from Portland State University. At the time of her fellowship she was teaching high school Language Arts, English-as-a-Second-Language and Drama in Portland, Oregon. After her fellowship Teresa wrote: “I fell in love with human rights journalism. The fellowship was an incredible experience. I learned a lot, became more confident about my ability to interview people and present issues in an in-depth and informed way."



Seizing the Opportunity: An Interview with Romani News Anchor Richard Samko

27 Jul

“My work has become my hobby,” says Richard Samko, the second ever Romani news anchor on Czech Television. “The work is colorful and diverse. It’s also an adrenaline rush, and I like that.”


[Richard Samko, photo credit Czech Radio]

Samko has worked in the field of journalism for eleven years as a reporter, news anchor and more recently host of Events and Commentary, a nightly program featuring news analysis and political commentary.

In the late 1990s, the Dženo Association introduced Samko to the world of journalism in a training designed to bring up a new generation of Romani reporters.

Samko is a pioneer, with only Ondřej Giňa, Jr., the first news anchor of Romani background in the Czech Republic, having blazed the trail before him. Samko’s drive, energy and passion for his work in the news media underscore our conversation.

“I stuck with it for years, working my way up, because I wanted to make it far,” says Samko. “The opportunity was something a person gets only once in a lifetime. To get to work in Czech Television is huge; it’s power.”

Samko has covered topics as wide-ranging as immigration, problems inside the police force, right-wing extremism, traffic law, housing issues and unemployment. He has also taken part in producing documentaries, an interest he would like to pursue in greater depth.

One documentary on which Samko collaborated was The Saga of the Roma (Sága Romů), a film examining the changes in the Romani community and its relationship to the majority population during the second half of the 20th century. Samko confesses filmmaking is his dream.

“When I worked on The Saga, filmmaking really grabbed me. I saw that the work was more creative,” Samko recalls. “I then made a few short documentaries myself.”

“I would like to make a film that is Roma-themed,” Samko continues. “I can see that as the most realistic undertaking for me; a topic which I understand the best and can say the most about.”

One of the most powerful aspects of being so visible in the media is Samko’s ability to inspire Romani children, who look up to him as a role model from their own ranks.

Whenever Samko’s hectic schedule allows it, Samko travels to Romani cultural festivals to act as master of ceremonies and to speak to the children.

“I want the children to see a positive example of what is possible to achieve,” says Samko.

One of his projects is a program called Fledglings (Ptáčata), in which a television crew follows a group of second-graders, many of them Romani, as they learn to become camera operators, reporters and news anchors while documenting their own lives.

Samko is a visionary. He recognizes the potential in his community and advocates for the skills of those newly trained in his field to be harnessed. Once funding for Dženo’s Romani station Radio Rota is renewed and the broadcast expanded via digital satellite technology, Samko, who would work with the station in advisory capacity, sees an enormous opportunity for a new generation of journalists.

“Radio Rota should be funded,” asserts Samko, “because it would serve as a base for those who have started on a path towards a career in journalism. There is a potential here that should be developed further. In mainstream television, where I work, there is no time for on-the-job training or mentoring. New journalists have to be ready to start working at a professional level. That’s where media organizations such as Dženo and Radio Rota come in.”

Another role that Radio Rota could fulfill is that of enabling journalists from the majority population to access experiences of the members of Romani community whose issues would be of interest because they ‘affect the entire country,’ as Samko says.

“Mainstream media could draw on the work of Romani journalists reporting for Radio Rota,” Samko continues, “because they tend to be the ones with access to the Romani community, something the average Czech reporter doesn’t have.”

In addition to providing information mainstream journalists could draw on as well as hands-on experience to young Romani reporters, Radio Rota, because the Czech Republic is in the center of Europe, could serve as the heart of Romani newscasting, says Samko.

“Radio Rota could broadcast news programming from around the world,” Samko envisions. “We know journalists in Bulgaria, Hungary, Russia, Poland, etc. We know people everywhere. In all these places there are journalists who would contribute Romani-themed programs. The station could be a pan-European showcase.”

To close, Samko urges: “I want my fellow Roma to persevere in doing what they enjoy despite obstacles they may encounter. The opportunities are there. It may take a few years. There will be a few years of waiting, but then the chance to get to a better place will arrive and they will be able to fulfill their dreams.”

“And as far as the majority community is concerned,” Samko concludes, “more tolerance is necessary. There needs to be more room and less judgement of people based on their looks or minority status. Minorities must be given a chance.”

Posted By Tereza Bottman

Posted Jul 27th, 2010

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