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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 February 2006, 15:36 GMT
Czech PM in 'racist' jokes spat
By Rob Cameron
BBC News, Prague

Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek denies a racist subtext to his agenda
Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has come under fire after a popular comedian told racist jokes during his general election campaign.

The jokes, about the country's Roma minority, were made during an election road show touring the Czech Republic four months ahead of the elections.

TV comic Jiri Krampol, who told the jokes, is touring with Mr Paroubek to drum up support for his party.

A daily newspaper reported that the jokes stereotyped the Roma as thieves.

Mr Paroubek allegedly smiled at the jokes, that are said to regularly form part of Mr Krampol's act, and said nothing.

After initially downplaying the reports, Mr Paroubek has now appeared before reporters to deny the election show had what he called "a racist subtext".

He pointed out that a Romany musician was also a regular guest on the show. The musician has also denied the show was racist.

Jokes about the Roma have since been quietly dropped from Mr Krampol's act but the incident has illustrated once again that racist attitudes towards the country's large Roma minority are deeply ingrained in Czech society.

Polls suggest that the majority of Czechs think the Roma are lazy and refuse to live by the rules of society. The same polls indicate that most Czechs would not want Roma neighbours.

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