The Hungarian Helsinki Committee is joining with a coalition of NGOs in asking domestic companies and Hungarian divisions of multinationals to take a stand against racist commentary in Hungary. The NGOs are asking, among others, Vodafone, T-Com, FedEx, IKEA and Procter and Gamble to reconsider advertising in a Hungarian newspaper which published an article talking about Romani people in unacceptably racist and prejudiced language.
On 5 January 2013, Hungarian daily newspaper Magyar Hírlap published an op-ed by Zsolt Bayer, a journalist and co-founder of the ruling Fidesz party. The article contained the following passage on Roma:
"A significant portion of the Gypsies are unfit for co-existence, not fit to live among human beings. These people are animals and behave like animals… If he finds resistance, he kills… He wants what he sees. If he doesn't get it, he takes it and he kills… From his animal skull only inarticulate sounds come out and the only thing he understands is brute force… These animals should not exist. No way. This must be solved, immediately and in any way possible."
This kind of inflammatory language is especially dangerous in Hungary. Six Romani people were murdered in a series of racially-motivated violent attacks just a few years ago. Far-right groups regularly organise racist marches designed to intimidate and harass Romani people. There is a widespread climate of prejudice and hate against Romani people and discriminatory speech has become accepted in the public discourse.
The NGOs are asking the companies to review their advertising policies and to consider withdrawing all advertising from Magyar Hírlap until its editors explicitly condemn the op-ed, and the newspaper decides to cease publishing racist, anti-semitic or homophobic articles. In addition, the civil organisations are asking them to explicitly inform the management of Magyar Hírlap that their decision to withdraw advertising is linked to its policy on publishing articles containing racist, anti-semitic and discriminatory speech.
The letter was sent to the following companies:
CIB Bank (Intensa SanPaolo)
Erste Bank Hungary
Magyar Posta (Hungarian Post)
T-Com (Magyar Telekom Nyrt.)
MÁV Co. (Hungarian Railway)
National Development Agency (Nemzeti Fejlesztési Ügynökség [NFÜ])
Procter & Gamble Hungary
Sodexo Hungary Ltd.
The following NGOs signed the letter:
Amnesty International Hungary
Golden Lily Foundation
Social Resource Centre Budapest (Budapesti Szociális Forrásközpont)
Csillagfény Starlight Foundation
Chance for Children Foundation
Eötvös Károly Institute
European Roma Rights Centre
Child Chance Association (GYERE)
Háttér Support Society for LGBT People in Hungary
Labrisz Lesbian Association
Hungarian Helsinki Committee
Hungarian LGBT Alliance (seven member organisations)
Hungarian Women’s Lobby
Hungarian Anti Poverty Network
Legal Defence Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities
Nógrád County Alliance of Gipsy Minority Representatives and Advocates
Partners Hungary Foundation
Eger Branch of the Fund for the Poors (SZETA)
Hungarian Civil Liberties Union
Terne Cserehájá Association
and Dignity for All Movement (coMMMunity)