Romani activists have launched three separate legal challenges against: the far-right Member of the European Parliament, Angel Dzambazki; the far-right VMRO political party; and the “7 Days” news server, over anti-Roma hate speech. The complaints were lodged with the Bulgarian Commission for Protection Against Discrimination on 2nd May by representatives of the Equal Opportunities Initiative and the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC).
“There is an emergency situation in Bulgaria when it comes to far-right hate speech” said the ERRC’s President, Đorđe Jovanović. “This should be viewed in the same way we treat dangerous diseases – as an immediate threat to the public. Hate speech is a disease in democracy which must be dealt with as a matter of urgency. It has become normalised for politicians to incite hatred, and very often violence, against Romani people. That is why we are taking these cases. This has to stop.”
The case against Angel Dzambazki concerns a video posted to his Facebook profile in June 2021 in which he refers to Romani Bulgarians as illiterate criminals and asks human rights defenders to come to see them in their “natural habitat” in Bulgaria. The video displays data on the relative proportion of Roma in the population of Bulgaria, to which Dzambazki warns: ”In 30 years they will be one million, if someone doesn’t do something…”. He is shown on screen with a hall in the European Parliament as the background. Dzambazki’s video has been viewed more than 43,000 times on Facebook alone, with an unknown number of additional views on the VMRO Party’s website. His speech is discriminatory, inciteful, and dangerous coming from a Member of the European Parliament and a Co-Chair of the VMRO Party.
The second case against the VMRO Party itself concerns the publication of a news piece on their website in August 2022 titled: “We want a meeting with the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Interior to convene a Council for curbing gypsy crime.” The publication promotes a document which was proposed to the Council of Ministers in August 2019 named: “Concept for dealing with unsocialised Gypsy groups.” The publication uses offensive language and expressions to make allegations of a number of crimes committed, according to them, by Romani Bulgarian citizens. These crimes are described as ”incomprehensible to a normal human mind.” Other dehumanising phrases such as “minor gypsies”, “gypsy family”, “the gypsy concept”, and “uncontrolled marginal masses” are used to incite hatred against Roma and depict the ethnic group as sub-human.
The third case against the “7 Days” news server concerns a news report about alleged vandalism committed against four buses after a bus hit a child in the street. The news server explicitly identifies the alleged perpetrators as being Roma, despite their ethnicity having no bearing on the reporting of the news. In contrast, the ethnic origin of the injured child, who is Romani, is not mentioned in the article. Specifying the ethnic identity of alleged perpetrators of a crime is not necessary for reporting on the facts surrounding this crime, nor for the purpose of identifying the perpetrator, determining guilt, or the type of punishment.
All three complaints allege Harassment and Incitement to Discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, in violation of the Bulgarian Protection against Discrimination Act. The cases are currently under investigation by the Commission for Protection Against Discrimination.
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