Anti-Romani Hatred Promoted by Hungarian Media
17 October 2006
ERRC Concerned at Inflammatory Responses to Mob Crime
Budapest. The European Roma Rights Centre was dismayed to learn from the Hungarian media of beating death of Lajos Szögi, aged 44, by an angry mob. The assault took place in the afternoon hours of October 15 in the village Olaszliszka in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County, Hungary, as a reaction to a road incident in which Mr Szögi hit a 11-year-old young girl with his car. The ERRC condemns mob violence as a very grave crime, and urges the Hungarian authorities to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation into all the circumstances of the events and bring all perpetrators to justice.
The ERRC expresses concern at the way this crime has been covered in a number of Hungarian media outlets, including major commercial Hungarian TV channels and dailies, such as TV2 and Magyar Nemzet. These and reportedly others have engaged in blaming of the local Roma 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 Magyar Nemzet of 17 October, 2006, advising drivers to step on the gas and drive away without stopping if they run over a Romani child Such publications must be condemned in the strongest terms and journalists held accountable for fostering anti-Romani racial hatred and contributing to the stigmatization of an entire ethnic group.
The ERRC calls on 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 inflamatory publications may abruptly and/or dramatically degrade the public sphere, cause threats to individuals, or otherwise give rise to arbitrary, race-based harms.