Last week, news broke that one member of the Czech Republic Eurovision jury was not a Czech citizen, which could theoretically put the Czech Republic in breach of Eurovision jury rules. Now the Czech head of press has issued a statement clearing up the matter. He confirms that the EBU had already given permission to let the American-born, Czech-resident musician Tonya Graves be part of the Czech jury.
The EBU requires that all Eurovision jury members be citizens of the country they represent. After it was discovered that the American-born singer Tonya Graves was part of the Czech jury, speculation began swirling, with some wondering if her votes or the entire Czech jury’s votes might be disqualified.
The Czech Head of Press responds
However, Ahmad Halloun, the Czech Head of Press, quickly cleared up any speculation. In a strongly-worded statement on his Instagram account, he confirmed that the Czech delegation had already gained an exemption from the EBU a month prior. He wrote:
“I’m the need of addressing the polemic with the amazing Tonya Graves being a member of the Czech Republic professional jury for Eurovision 2021.
“Yes, she’s not a Czech citizen. Nevertheless, we wanted to have a set of prominent and diverse panel of music figures in our jury, showing how the Czech Republic team is taking Eurovision very seriously and working to change the image of the contest.
“She has an extensive and successful career in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. She has been a permanent citizen of the Czech Republic for more than 20 years.
“We requested an exception for this rule for her to the EBU and this exception was granted on April 16th.
“The Czech Jury votes are valid and there are no changes in the results of this year’s Eurovision.
“We encourage all media to contact us before publishing alarming and false stories.”
Tonya Graves was born in New York State but moved to Prague in 1995. There she has worked as a jazz and pop singer and actress and is well established in the Czech entertainment industry.
Czech Republic at Eurovision
The Czech Republic has competed nine times at Eurovision, with mixed results. They first qualified for the grand final in 2016, when Gabriela Gunčíková competed with “I Stand”.
In 2018, the Czech Republic earned their best result when Mikolas Josef placed sixth in the grand final with his cheeky bop “Lie To Me”. The following year, indie pop group Lake Malawi finished 11th in the grand final with their song “Friend of a Friend”.
Most recently, Benny Cristo missed out on the grand final, after placing 15th with his song “Omaga”.