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Zeman’s spokesman against scientists’ solidarity with refugees

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Prague, Aug 18 (CTK) – President Milos Zeman’s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek criticised yesterday a call by hundreds of Czech scientists for toleration of immigrants, saying it deepens the gap between Czech society and the elites.
Researcher Pavel Jungwirth told CTK in reaction to Ovcacek’s words that the call should bridge the gaps, on the contrary.
The call “Scientists against Fear and Indifference” has been signed by more than 1500 personalities, the authors say on their web page.
Besides scientists, the call has been backed by hundreds of peoples of other professions.
Earlier yesterday, it was backed by Cardinal Miroslav Vlk, Slovak sociologist and former dissident Fedor Gal, writer Ota Filip, psychologist Dalibor Spok and other personalities.
Helena Illnerova, former chairwoman of the Academy of Sciences (AV), said the call was the most decent expression of how the Czech society should behave towards foreigners that is to perceive them as people with their own dignity. This is a general call for humanity and solidarity, she told CTK.
The public can also sign the scientists’ appeal.
“I will formulate my personal opinion with the permission of the president,” Ovcacek said.
“This activity only deepens the gap between the ‘elites’ and Czech society,” Ovcacek said.
The best reaction to the petition is paraphrasing its content. “Security and decent treatment should be ensured for all those who live in Europe,” he said.
Jungwirth said it seemed as if Ovcacek “followed his personal agenda” by his statement.
The aim of the call is to make people think rationally and solve problems accordingly and not succumb to emotions as the president did, Jungwirth said.
He recalled that Zeman recently expressed regret that the government had failed to find finances to cover the operation of Klokanek, indebted facilities for children in need, although the sums spent on aid to immigrants would be much higher.
“This is exactly what is dividing society and the president is dividing it. On the contrary, we are trying to unite it around a rational goal and way of thinking,” Jungwirth said.
In the petition, hundreds of scientists, university professors and employees came out against the mounting xenophobic moods in Czech society. They wrote that they are anxious about the activities of extremist groups to which there exists no sufficient counterweight in the country.
The scientists called on politicians to take into consideration real possibilities in accepting refugees, not the erratic public moods.
They also wrote that politicians should not abuse others’ misfortune for scoring cheap political points.
The scientists called on the media to carry truthful information and not to spread false scoops and panic.
The public should be cautious in making any judgements and not allow itself be manipulated.
The signatories include Helena Illnerova, former chairwoman of the Academy of Sciences, theologist Tomas Halik, literary historian Martin C. Putna and philosopher Jan Sokol.
An opinion poll conducted by the CVVM institute in June showed that over 70 percent of Czechs do not want to accept refugees.

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