The mayor of a small town in eastern Hungary has been fined by a government agency after he published an open letter in the town’s newsletter asking the residents not to sell their properties to Roma arriving from other villages, reports index.hu.
Independent Mezőkeresztes mayor János Majoros (pictured) published the letter, titled “Let’s stop the fall in real estate prices,” in the July 2015 edition of the monthly newsletter. Majoros encouraged residents to sell or rent their properties to businesses or private persons with regular income capable of saving money and starting businesses. He requested that all members of the community, “if possible, not sell their real estate to people of Roma nationality arriving from other settlements.” The letter also appeared on the town’s website.
Responding to a complaint filed against Majoros by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ), the Hungarian Equal Treatment Authority (EBH) concluded that the mayor had committed an act of persecution against the Roma people by violating the legal requirement for equal treatment. In addition to fining him HUF 100,000 (USD 345), the EBH required that the offending article be removed from the website, and that Majoros publish a notice on the website and in the newsletter informing the public of its decision.
Director of the TASZ freedom of speech project Dalma Dojcsák agreed with the EBH decision, saying: “The mayor’s opinion published in the town newsletter does not enjoy freedom of speech protections. When government officials speak in an official capacity, their statements do not enjoy the high level of protection given to citizens’ opinions, since they embody the state and speak in the state’s name, and the state must treat all citizens with equal personal dignity.”