Hungarian Media Promotes Anti-Romani Hatred
18 May 2007
October 2006 saw a wave of anti-Romani media coverage spread through Hungary following the beating death of Mr Lajos Szögi, aged forty-four, by an angry mob. The assault took place in the afternoon hours of 15 October in the village Olaszliszka in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County, Hungary, in reaction to a road incident in which Mr Szögi hit an eleven-yearold Romani girl with his car.
Following the death of Mr Szögi, major commercial Hungarian TV channels and dailies, such as TV2, Magyar Nemzet and others blamed the local Romani community, quoting spokespersons of various organisations, public figures and media representatives as revealing of the "Roma issue". A number of media also labelled the alleged perpetrators indiscriminately as "the Roma". Some publications contained extremely ugly incitement to racist violence, as for example an article by Zsolt Bayer in the 17 October issue of Magyar Nemzet, advising drivers to step on the gas and drive away without stopping if they run over a Romani child.
On 17 October, the ERRC issued a public call to Hungarian journalists, editors and other members of the media to refrain from inflaming racist sentiment and to maintain high professional standards of responsible journalism. Racially inflammatory publications may abruptly and/or dramatically degrade the public sphere, cause threats to individuals, or otherwise give rise to arbitrary, race-based harm.