Five companies have said they will no longer place advertising in a Hungarian newspaper that published extreme anti-Roma statements.
The withdrawal follows a campaign by 24 NGOs, who contacted 15 companies that advertise with Magyar Hírlap, a right-wing Hungarian daily newspaper. The NGOs asked the companies to consider suspending their advertising activities in the newspaper until it distances itself from the racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic views expressed by Zsolt Bayer, who compared Roma to ‘animals’ and called for a solution, saying “This must be dealt with – immediately, and by any means necessary”.
Erste Bank blacklisted Magyar Hírlap after the NGOs' letter, and expressly brought it to their media agency's attention to “act more prudently next time” when dealing with the publication of their advertisements. They also emphasised that the bank will not advertise in any media whose content “hurts the dignity of others, or uses an inflammatory tone regarding any minority, ethnicity, or religious group”. The leaders of CIB Bank said that the CIB Group 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”. IKEA, FedEx, and GDF Suez also distanced themselves from the article, and stated they do not plan to advertise in the online version of the newspaper in the future.
The companies mostly place their Internet advertisements in packages through a media buyer, and some were not aware their advertising had appeared in Magyar Hírlap.
Other advertisers responded non-committally, or did not respond at all. The NGOs have now approached the parent companies and head offices of multinationals, including Telekom and Sodexo, asking them to take their corporate social responsibility commitments seriously.
The NGO campaign sends a clear signal that racist anti-Roma statements will not be tolerated by businesses, who risk alienating their customers by continuing to support media outlets that publish provocative and offensive material.