Bayer’s anti-Roma rant draws fire

An article by one of the Fidesz party founders, who wrote that Roma are “animals,” has stirred sharp condemnation from senior European Commission officials, human rights groups, and media associations in Europe and Hungary. In early January, conservative commentator Zsolt Bayer wrote an editorial in the pro-government newspaper Magyar Hírlap in which he claimed that “a significant part of the Roma are unfit for coexistence.”

According to a translation of Bayer’s comments provided by Spiegel Online, Bayer wrote: “They are not fit to live among people. These Roma are animals, and they behave like animals. When they meet with resistance, they commit murder. They are incapable of human communication. Inarticulate sounds pour out of their bestial skulls. At the same time, these Gypsies understand how to exploit the ‘achievements’ of the idiotic Western world. But one must retaliate rather than tolerate. These animals shouldn’t be allowed to exist. In no way. That needs to be solved – immediately and regardless of the method.” Bayer’s article was written in reaction to a New Year’s Eve brawl that occurred at a bar near Budapest, in which some Roma were reportedly involved.

Bayer’s comments were immediately condemned by European Commission officials. Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission’s Digital Agenda, tweeted a response to Bayer’s article, saying: “I am horrified by the words of Zsolt Bayer about Hungary’s Roma community (‘animals’ etc.). This is not what I call freedom of speech/media.” She followed with another tweet: “If someone calls Roma community ‘not human’ – I’m talking about Zsolt Bayer of Fidesz in Hungary – that is a sign they’re not a worthy ally.” Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission’s Human Rights unit, also condemned Bayer’s remarks, according to MTI.

The Ethical Committee of the Hungarian Association of Journalists said that Bayer’s comments violate the Association’s Ethical Code and also Article 11 of the European Human Rights Charter.The European Federation of Journalists released a statement denouncing Bayer’s comments, claiming that “the editor-in-chief of Magyar Hírlap should never have allowed such an article to be printed. This shows the urgent need for dialogue among media players, including journalists’ organisations to agree on the responsibilities and duties of journalists and editors.” According to Spiegel Online, Bayer’s comments “amount to genocide.” Hungary’s 2010 media laws prohibit content that offends human dignity, or that “incite(s) hatred against any nation, community, national, ethnic, linguistic or other minority or any majority as well as any church or religious group.”

The Magyar Hirlap is is a property of SGH Vagyonkezelő Kft, which is owned Gábor Széles, a top Fidesz-party donor in 2010. Gábor Széles is also part owner of the conservative national commercial TV station, Echo TV.