Media wheel: Austrian Roma Association –Service – Partners in creating social interaction, not passive observers

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    Foto: flickr / Jeff Eaton

    Rromani national minority in Austria, although few in numbers is extremely versatile and long-lived. In the late 1990s, it launched numerous media activities, such as the publication of magazines in Rromani and German language (“dROMa”, “Romano Centro”, “Romano Kipo”, “Roma Cajtung”, children magazine “Mri nevi Mini Multi”) weekly radio programme at the Burgenland-Roma local radio station, a two-month TV magazine show on the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF) and a romblog.at on the Internet.

    Such rich media activity exists thanks to Austrian state television and public subsidies, but state funding is largely accessible to “indigenous” and traditionally populated Rromani communities, and not to Rromani groups that later immigrated to Austria.

    In order to expand the activities of the Rromani media beyond the work of a few veterans, recently they have launched practical workshops and courses for young Rroma in Vienna (romblog.at) and Burgenland (Tschubtscha) with the aim of encouraging professional journalism within the Rroma community. Participants prepare regular online contributions published on romblog.at and on Erba Radio and Television. Nevertheless, in spite of the great media activity, the current problems show that this is still insufficient to combat the prejudice shaped by the major media.

    Such social attitudes represented the main driving motive for us. We wanted to show the Austrian public that the Rroma are not mere passive observers, and that there has been no real reason for racist prejudices and antiziganism, which have been deeply rooted, told us Roman Urbaner, editor-in-chief of the “dROMa” magazine. Rromani language, Rromani culture and traditional heritage should be the source of the self-awareness and pride of the Rroma community and it is necessary to familiarize the entire Austrian society with it, Urbaner added. Among the numerous activities of the Association, he emphasized activities aimed at preserving and standardizing Rromani language and collaborating with academics and linguists from the University of Graz, initiated by Emmerich Gärtner-Horvath.

    Since the magazine is intended for a very wide audience of readers, both Rroma and non-Rroma, the journalists, members of the Association and the “guest authors” as well as external associates from Vienna, Burgenland and Graz, are trying to cover a wide range of content, from those concerning the local community to the “academic” topics and international issues. We also want to influence those readers who are, because of their profession in everyday or frequent contact with the Rroma, such as teachers, social workers, politicians or journalists in general, Roman Urbaner told us and added that they consider cooperation with Rromani associations and newsrooms from neighbouring countries, for example, Slovenia, Hungary and Germany, important in order to maintain the high standard of journalism they set. They point out that media quality comes from reliable sources and information, as well as dialogue and collaboration. Actuality of information is also one of the key components of information, Urbaner points out mentioning that this component was crucial for launching a blog on the web and further activism on social networks some ten years ago. With a total of eight thousand followers, their portal is the second most important among the Rroma portals in the world.

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