A new attack on a Roma family from Bögöt

The home of a Romani family has been attacked last weekend in a village called Bögöt located in the county of Vas, west of Hungary. The household was shared with a Romani widow and her five children. The windows and the fences of the house have been broken into pieces; firecrackers were also thrown onto the house. As a result of the fear caused by the incident, the family had to flee the village; they now live with a relative. Before the attack, Roma and non-Roma were living peacefully together in Bögöt. This is the first case that such an incident has occurred in the county of Vas.

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These incidents should not be viewed as isolated events. Instead, they are part of a growing transnational extreme right wing movement that is sweeping through Central and Eastern Europe, building up inter-organizational networks and common strategies for spreading terror among local Roma populations. This is a regional problem, and as such it requires strong unified regional action.

This growing movement represents a clear threat to regional peace and security and indicates an acute need of a consolidated, regional approach to tackle the issue; this should involve increased cooperation between governments, police forces, judicial institutions and national security agencies.

The mainstream media plays a key role in perpetuating the cycle of prejudice, misunderstanding and exclusion. Media informs social attitudes and defines perceptions of the self and the other. Although, it has the power to promote inclusion and understanding, the European mainstream press strongly confirms anti-Roma sentiments; reinforcing harmful stereotypes, overemphasizing Roma crime, presenting Roma as passive victims and depicting Roma as exotic and “Other.”

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This consistently negative and unbalanced media representation reinforces anti-tziganism. Recent EU polling suggests that a majority of Europeans believe that Roma are detrimental to society. Even well intentioned news sources often present stereotypical and abstract portraits of Roma. Distanced reporting creates a culture of fear and a sense of emergency which leads to prejudice, discrimination and increasing violence.