I am Roma, not a lifestyle!
At times, even public figures or the representatives of authoritites make statements that contain hate speech. These utterances can have much graver effects and consequences than the statements of average citizens, because they reach a wider circle of people, and serve as a standard for the wider groups of society. The judge of the Court of Gyula rejected the request for the ban of the radical ‘For a Better Future Association’ (Szebb Jövőért Egyesület) with the reasoning that the Roma, attacked by the organisation, are „characterised by a lifestyle of avoiding work, and morals that lack the respect of private property and the norms of community co-existence”. The activism carried out by CFCF was a reaction to the racist statement of judge Erika Mucsi. With the use of various communication tools and by activating citizens they have managed to achieve that the National Committee of Judicial Ethics have declared the words and the judicial practice of the judge unethical.
The appearance of hate speech in judicial judgements is an especially dangerous phenomenon that needs to be reacted upon appropriately by civil society. Instances of civil activism that react to current matters and events as they occur and which are able to reach and activate citizens, can be important tools of civil control.
Finding a central message or slogan that summarises well the message of a thematic project with a series of events, and which is easy to understand, is key for a successful project. The title „I am Roma, not a lifestyle” summarises the fact that an ethnic group cannot be identified and associated with a certain characteristic or behaviour very well. It is also important that it was members of the group affected that spoke up – they stood up for themselves, and spoke up in this matter.
Communication has an important role in reaching the members of society. Postcards, distributed at events organised in various cities, had a central role in this particular project. The citizens involved had the chance to send four kinds of postcards to the Prime Minister, to two ministers and to the judge in question herself. They requested the judge to apologise publicly, and the members of the government to take effective steps towards the eradication of hate speech. The supporters of the project could send the cards to the addressees either through the staff of CFCF or by sending them through the post themselves.
They planned to hand over the postcards collected by the organisation to the Prime Minister’s Office at a public press event, but the PM’s Office did not wish to proceed with this. However, they managed to hand over the postcards to the Court of Gyula, in the presence of the largest commercial TV channel in Hungary.
They have also made a number of videos related to the project, in which they talked to the people that signed the postcards. This way they have managed to reach and engage citizens both online and in the offline world, and let them become active participants of the civili intiative by signing the postcards. The postcards have reached nearly 4500 people during the 5-months of the series of events, and the related videos have been watched by over 2500 people.
It is usually very difficult for civil contol to have any effect on the practice of decision-makers and authorities. But this event has achieved a significant result: the National Committee of Judicial Ethics have declared the proceedings of the judge unethical, even if the ministers addressed and the Prime Minister himself did not bother to respond to the initiative, and nor did they take significant steps related to the matter.