22nd Oct 2016

Hungary awards top journalism prize to anti-Roma broadcaster

  • Europe's Roma minority face discrimination on a daily basis (Photo: Boryana Katsarova/cosmos/Agentur Focus)

An anti-Semitic and Roma-bashing TV broadcaster in Hungary has received the country’s top journalism prize.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing government awarded Ferenc Szaniszlo the Tancsics Prize for journalism on Friday (15 March).

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Szaniszlo works at the pro-government Echo TV channel.

He was fined €500 by the state media regulator in 2011 for calling Roma people "apes." He is also known for spreading anti-Semitic conspiracy theories during his TV shows.

Hungary’s minister of resources Zoltan Balog handed over the prize.

Balog claims he was unaware of Szaniszlo’s views, as 10 other Tancsics winners from other categories returned their prizes on Monday in protest, according to British daily The Independent.

An anti-Semetic archeologist, Kornel Bakay, who says Jews organided the slave trade in the Middle Ages, also received a Tancsics gong in a separate category.

Meanwhile, Janos Petras, of the rock band Karpatia, was awarded the Golden Cross of Merit.

Karpatia has a large following among the extreme-right Jobbik party and has marched alongside the military wing of the now-banned nationalist Hungarian Guard.

The guards, who parade around in military uniforms, have held torch-bearing rallies in Roma villages.

For its part, the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) says Hungary’s Roma minority endures daily attacks and discrimination.

Ostracized and living on society’s margins, the minority has faced severe persecution throughout Hungary’s recent history.

The Roma were ordered by law to leave the country in 1940 and were heavily persecuted under the German occupation.

Today, walls are spray-painted with tag lines such as "gypsies you will burn" alongside swastikas in reference to an era that still haunts Europe.

And senior figures in Orban's Fidesz party have fanned the trend. Zsolt Bayer, a Fidesz co-founder, in January told Magyar Hírlap, a right-wing Hungarian daily, that “a significant part of the Roma are unfit for coexistence. They are not fit to live among people. These Roma are animals and they behave like animals."

A number of NGOs, including the ERRC, contacted 15 companies to stop placing adverts with Magyar Hírlap.

The five who responded - Erste Bank, CIB Bank, IKEA, FedEx, and GDF Suez - said they would pull their adverts from the paper in protest.

CIB Bank added that it will refrain from advertising in Magyar Hírlap and its portal “until the editorial staff categorically condemns Zsolt Bayer's writing and ensures that both publications are free from writings that include hate speech."

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