The Fight for Fair Roma Representation: Racist Content as a Human Rights Issue

14 May 2024

By Judit Ignácz

In an era where media holds the power to shape societal attitudes and perceptions, it is our collective responsibility to ensure the fair and respectful portrayal of all communities. However, instances of biased and even racist media representation persist, particularly against already marginalised groups, such as the portrayal of the Romani communities in various television programmes across Europe. This becomes a matter of severe concern when media platforms are used to perpetuate stereotypes, fuel prejudices, and incite hatred against Romani communities. 

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) has long been fighting against discriminatory practices and human rights abuses against Romani people across Europe. On 29 February 2024, the ERRC filed a complaint against the Italian television programme "Fuori dal Coro," aired on Rete 4, for its prejudiced portrayal of the Romani community, highlighting how media can perpetuate harmful stereotypes, discrimination, and hatred. 

Between September 2023 and February 2024, out of 21 episodes, eight episodes contained up to four "Roma-themed" sections each, depicting the Romani communities that already face significant societal bias in an unfairly negative light as criminals engaged in illicit activities and aggressive individuals living proudly in abusive and dangerous environments. Such representation not only violates the principles of impartiality of information, oversimplifying and distorting the circumstances of Romani people, undermining their dignity, but also breaches the principle of equality protected in Italian law.

A 2019 Pew Research survey found that 83% of Italians held unfavourable views on Roma. By reinforcing these harmful stereotypes, the programme potentially worsens the bias and discrimination that the Romani communities already face. Moreover, the programme fails to shed light on the systemic racism, discrimination, and unsolved socioeconomic issues that Romani communities face in Italy, including critical areas of life such as housing, education, employment, and healthcare. There is no mention of the fact that Roma face housing segregation, nor does it explain that they are housed undignifiedly in ethnically segregated camps by Italian authorities, which act as barriers to employment, education, and access to social and health services. 

Legal Aspects

The programme's content contradicts the objectivity, completeness, loyalty, and impartiality of information established by Article 4 of the Consolidated Law for Audiovisual Media Services. (Testo Unico per la Fornitura si Servizi di Media Audiovisivi). It also appears to violate the principle of equality enshrined in Article 3 of the Italian Constitution and constitutes harassment based on ethnic origin, creating a hostile and offensive climate for the entire Roma community, breaching Article 2 of Legislative Decree No. 215, which implements Directive 2000/43/EC. 

EU Directive 2018/1808 establishes that “Member States shall ensure by appropriate means that audiovisual media services provided by media service providers under their jurisdiction do not contain any: (a) incitement to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of a group based on any of the grounds referred to in Article 21 of the Charter.

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) has initiated several actions against biased and discriminatory practices and media representation and portrayal of Roma. 

  • In 2024, in North Macedonia, the ERRC filed a complaint to the Equality Body against the President of the City of Skopje representing the right-wing nationalist party for his public remarks portrayed the Romani community as lazy and dependent on social assistance, burdening the state budget. In their decision, they stated that the remark is “invoking, inciting, and instructing discrimination based on skin colour, social origin, or membership to a marginalized group” and “recommended his offensive statement be removed from public discourse within 30 days and that he should refrain from using such rhetoric in the future.” 
  • In 2023, digital violence against Romani women in Italy was addressed when far-right trolls and post-fascist legislators falsely accused Romani women on social media of illicit activities, branding them as “thieving Gypsies.”
  • In 2023, in Slovakia, the ERRC, together with the Forum for Human Rights, lodged six criminal complaints against individuals for posting anti-Roma hate speech and violent, inciteful remarks against the Romani community on various social media platforms. Young volunteers and law students known on social media as ROMAntici gathered comments, including promoting the genocide against the Roma, sympathizing with Nazi ideology, and directly inciting hate and violence against Roma and people with disabilities.
  • In 2023, in Bulgaria, the ERRC lodged a complaint against the far-right party VMRO-Bulgarian National Movement for inciting hatred against Roma communities. Bulgaria’s Commission for Protection against Discrimination (CPC) ruled that such generalisations based on ethnicity constitute discrimination and rejected the party's free speech claims, asserting it violated human rights and democratic principles.
  • In 2015, the ERRC challenged the derogatory term “inadaptable” used to refer to Roma communities in the Czech Republic,  highlighted the negative portrayal of Roma in a Czech reality TV series, and released a publication detailing the hate speech against Roma online. According to ECRI, “this type of show serves no purpose other than to confirm and perpetuate widely held prejudice.”
  • The ERRC’s Roma Rights Defenders monitored and reported hate speech in Albania, Serbia, Turkey, and Ukraine between November 2020 and August 2021. The report “Challenging Digital Antigypsyism: Albania, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine” can be downloaded here.
  • In 2024, Young Romani activists, part of a volunteer-led project to record and litigate against online hate speech in the Czech Republic released a publication exposing the state of online hate against Roma in the country as well as a policy guide detailing what the government must do if it wants to challenge it effectively. The report Challenging Digital Antigypsyism in the Czech Republic describes how Romani volunteers reported and recorded 245 separate incidents of online racist language against Roma of varying degrees of severeness between the spring of 2022 and the summer of 2023. The second publication, Prosecuting Digital Antigypsyism: A Policy Guide for the Czech Republic, contains recommendations for the Ministry of Interior, public prosecutors, and law enforcement to better address online hate speech against Roma.

Roma have often been the primary target of racism in the media, resulting in growing anti-Roma sentiment, hate speech, and negative stereotypical media representation in many European countries, leading to real-life consequences, such as hate crimes. In Hungary, the "Mónika" and "Győzike" shows have long been aired for years on Hungarian RTL, serving as platforms that perpetuate damaging stereotypes, harmful prejudices, and incitement of hatred against Romani communities. Thankfully, both ceased airing in 2010. However, according to recent news the "Győzike" show will be aired again on the government-owned national TV2 channel ahead of the upcoming elections.

The media has a powerful influence on societal attitudes and perceptions, and it can either fuel prejudice and discrimination or promote understanding and inclusivity. These examples underscore the ERRC's efforts to challenge media outlets that perpetuate harmful stereotypes and discrimination against Romani communities. However, they also highlight the need for continued attentiveness and action against such practices. The fight against media discrimination is a critical human rights issue requiring collective action and shared responsibility.

We must hold media platforms accountable for their content and ensure that all communities are portrayed accurately, fairly, respectfully, and without harmful stereotypes. Ultimately, we should aim to foster a society that respects and upholds the dignity and rights of all its members. 


Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are, however, those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible.


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