ADL Deeply Troubled by the Hungarian Government’s Decision to Honor Journalist Ferenc Szaniszlo

New York, NY, March 19, 2013 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today expressed deep concern about a decision by the Hungarian government to honor journalist Ferenc Szaniszlo, who has made bigoted public statements about Jews and Roma.

Hungary’s Tancsics Prize, which is an award given to journalists named after the 19th century journalist Mihaly Tancsics, is awarded yearly on Hungary’s national day.

“We are deeply troubled by the awarding of the Hungarian Government’s Tancsics Prize to Ferenc Szaniszlo, whose bigoted public statements about Jews and Roma should have disqualified him from consideration for any honor by the government,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.  “We believe that vulnerable minority communities who are the targets of bigotry in Hungary deserve to be reassured that their government is fully committed to and engaged in taking appropriate measures to protect them against such painful expressions of prejudice.  This award is of particular concern, because it conveys an impression that such speech is tolerated in Hungary and, worse, even condoned by the government.”

In a letter to Zoltan Balog, the Hungarian Minister of Human Resources, ADL welcomed the government’s statement of regret for having given the award and stressed the significance of condemning such bigotry as a priority.

“We have emphasized that a clear and sustained public position by the Hungarian government is a critical component of the fight against bigotry in your country,” Mr. Foxman wrote.  “Even if this incident was the result of a bureaucratic error, the outcome detracts from that effort.”

The League has long been concerned about the prevalence of prejudice in Hungarian society as evidenced through multi-year series of attitude surveys (PDF), and public statements about anti-Semitic incidents and public discourse.  A poll conducted in January 2012 revealed anti-Semitic attitudes in ten European countries remained at disturbingly high levels, including Hungary, where the level rose to 63 percent of its population, compared to 47 percent in 2009.

In December 2012, ADL welcomed Hungary’s action to punish hate speech in its parliament, which came in the wake of anti-Semitic statements made by Marton Gyongyosi of the neo-Nazi Jobbik party.

Minister Balog subsequently wrote to Ferenc Szaniszlo and requested that he return the Tancsics Prize, due to statements that “are confronting the values represented by myself and the Hungarian Government,” of which he was unaware at the time the award was given.  Minister Balog’s letter was publicly released.  On his television show the next evening, Szaniszlo announced that he would return the prize and said, “Israel triumphed over Ferenc Szaniszlo.”

The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all. Today it is the world’s leading organization combating anti-Semitism, exposing hate groups, training law enforcement on hate crimes, developing anti-bias education programs for students, countering cyber-hate and relentlessly pursuing equal rights for all.

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