The review by Máté Szabó of the László Pesty documentary on Hungarian/Gypsy co-existence also concluded that this film had violated the right to equal dignity (here you can read an excerpt from the report in English). The Commissioner took measures to ensure that the Media Authority proceed with more professionalism in the future with regards to the protection of equal dignity and that it apply the instruments at its disposal and granted to it by law. This confirms the claim of CivilMedia to the effect that the Media Authority’s interpretation and application of the law did not meet constitutional standards.The Parliamentary Commissioner for Fundamental Rights believes that it is inadmissible for anyone to portray criminality and deviance as Roma issues. He particularly highlighted the expectations weighing upon programming broadcast by mass media that it be objective, and factual, and that the right to opinion of the content makers can only be realized within this constitutional framework. Szabó stated that the right to obtain unbiased information for the forming of democratic public opinion as well as the related requirement to provide a public service had been violated; further, that the Media Authority had failed to perform its role as a protector of fundamental rights.
In March, after the documentary was broadcast, CivilMedia turned to the Media Authority with its complaint, given that section 14 (2) of the Media Constitution prohibits showing persons in media content in a humiliating and vulnerable situation and in a gratuitous and harmful manner. It was based on this provision of the law that we launched proceedings in the “Pesty” case. However, the Media Authority refused to carry out a review of the case, citing the heightened protection of the freedom of the press. CivilMedia believes that the Media Authority failed to recognise that the makers of this documentary showed one of the most serious social problems in Hungary without consulting experts on the matter, without any reliance on research, and in a manner that is degrading and condescending towards Roma, based on the rawest techniques of emotional manipulation. The case was further aggravated by the facts that the film was shown on the state-funded television channel at prime time. In the light of all of the foregoing, for the Media Authority to cite the noble ideals of the freedom of the press is merely cynical – it is inacceptable and without legal foundations.
One of the main activities of our organisation over the past year has been to draw the attention of the public and of the Media Authority to cases of degrading, unbalanced portrayal of minorities in the media. The Media Authority did not find even one of these instances of imputed media content to be objectionable. For more on this topic, see Bea Bodrogi’s study, “Gypsy” stereotyping in the media.