Negative Generalizations about Ethnic Group Violate Codes,
Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council
September 10, 2013
Hate speech and human rights abuses must be challenged or they will grow. Toronto’s Roma Community Centre is pleased that the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has upheld most of our complaint against Ezra Levant’s Sun News broadcast “The Jew vs the Gypsies” on Sept. 5, 2012. The ruling, under the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code, is an important milestone in the struggle of Roma people for fair, honest and equal portrayal in the Canadian media.
The CBSC announced its finding yesterday (Sept. 9, 2013) that Mr. Levant had clearly violated CBSC broadcasting standards, citing the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) Code of Ethics Clause 2 (Human Rights), as well as Equitable Portrayal Code Clause 2 (Human Rights), Clause 3 (Negative Portrayal), Clause 4 (Stereotyping), Clause 5 (Stigmatization and Victimization), and Clause 7 (Degrading Material).
But the CBSC ruling also reveals how far industry standards still have to go. In concluding that Mr. Levant did not violate Clauses 9 (b) (Language and Terminology) the CBSC suggests that the term ‘Gypsy’ is not pejorative. We regret that the CBSC based its ruling on offensive, inaccurate and outdated references in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and in British legislation.
The OED’s full entry for the word ‘Gypsy’ contains anachronistic and pejorative definitions (some of which can clearly be discerned in Mr. Levant’s text for “The Jew vs the Gypsies”), including:
• a member of a wandering race;
• a cunning rogue;
• a contemptuous term for a woman, as being cunning, deceitful, fickle, or the like;
• gypsy-brat (‘two bundles of rags with a gypsy-brat in each of them’);
• gipsyless (‘free from gipsies’).
The English law that the CBSC ruling draws on includes the highly discriminatory and outdated ‘Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act’ of 1960. This piece of legislation defines “gypsies” as “persons of nomadic habit of life,” which is clearly inaccurate and inadequate to describe an ethnic group with a long history and diverse cultural and residential practices.” Furthermore, it is worth noting that the law was used to render many Roma and Travellers homeless in the UK by enabling further racial profiling of the community by local town-councils.
We find that the CBSC’s resort to such egregious and discriminatory citations -while ignoring current international, scholarly, and journalistic best-practices regarding the naming of our community – particularly egregious. Along these lines, it is worth noting that official documents of the Canadian government, European Union and United Nations use the word ‘Roma’ rather than ‘Gypsy’. More important, Roma is the term used historically and currently by the Roma community itself, particularly in Canada. The term ‘Gypsy’ is an exonym and historically inaccurate (based on the misunderstanding that Roma people came from Egypt); while ‘Roma’ is an endonym, based in Romani language and self-identity. Media should prioritize the use of endonyms (self-naming) over exonyms (what other groups call an ethnicity/race).
Roma Community Centre is happy to work with media to bring the real story about our community to Canadians, and to educate people about us, as well as work with and train media and journalists in reporting on Roma issues.
Ronald Lee, co-founder of the Roma Community Centre, said “It is a shame that Ezra Levant and his editors chose to ignore one of the basic requirements of journalism, such as research into his subject. He claimed that Roma were not an ethnicity, did not have a language, and were just a collection of criminals. That is simply ignorant and insulting. As long as people like Levant and those media outlets who support them put profit above journalistic ethics, the business of disinformation will flourish. His tongue -in-cheek “apology” was a farce and had no effect on those who listened to his rant.” In May, when the RCC posted Levant’s hateful rant on its YouTube account for all to see, Sun Media threatened legal action. Also during this past May, two separate Ontario police forces had recommended that Ezra Levant he be charged with hate propaganda. Apparently, the Deputy Attorney General of Ontario, Patrick Monahan, felt that the apology was enough to not proceed with prosecution.
Yesterday, after a yearlong investigation, the Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council has also found that the apologies made by Sun Media and Levant were sufficient. “When hate speech will be allowed to continue without serious consequences for the offenders as long as they make a public statement of apology, sincere or not, many Canadians will not feel that justice has taken place”, said RCC executive director, Gina Csanyi’s Robah.
It has been emotionally difficult to pursue a complaint, you have to revisit the behaviour in question and, like a rape trial, this is difficult and painful, but it is necessary. The Roma community wants to thank all the people who complained about the Sun News Network’s Ezra Levant, the people that volunteered legal help and representation, and the media that brought awareness to Levant’s harmful behaviour.
Contact Gina Csanyi – Robah, Executive Director at (416) 561-0770, for further information.
The fight for justice still continues