Hungarian bookseller receives heavy fine for incorrect display of book portraying homosexuality

July 14. 2023. – 10:50 AM


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The Budapest Government Office has imposed a 12 million HUF (32,000 EUR) consumer protection fine on the operator of one of the country’s biggest book distributors, Líra bookstore network, according to a statement published by MTI on Thursday afternoon.

The government agency was investigating the "circumstances of distribution" of Alice Oseman's Heartstopper series in the distributor’s shops, to see whether the company was in compliance with the anti-LGBTQ law and its prescribed implementation. Under the current Hungarian legislation, books dealing with LGBTQ issues in any form must be wrapped in transparent film and cannot be included in the section of books intended for adolescents.

According to a statement from the Office of County Government Commissioner Botond Sára, the investigation found that

"Although the books in question portray homosexuality, they were placed in the section of children's and youth literature and were not distributed in closed packaging.

For this reason, the Government Office has imposed a HUF 12 million consumer protection fine and has ordered the company to ensure the book's distribution in a way that is in line with the law. In order to protect children, the Budapest Government Office will always take strict action against companies that do not comply with the legislation."

We were able to reach Krisztián Nyáry, creative director of Líra by phone. He said that the news was true, they did receive the notice about the fine, but they have not had time to study it in detail yet.

"We will try to use all available legal means against the decision, and this will most likely be through the courts," he added.

We asked him whether – due to the drastic fine – they have plans to go through their stock with this perspective in mind and potentially remove certain books from the shelves, but Nyáry said he did not yet know what measures would come next. "The problem is that the wording of the legislation is so general that it is impossible to apply. Everyone is trying to draw conclusions from what the authorities are doing," he explained.

The instructions accompanying the law read as follows:

"It is forbidden to display or publicly exhibit products intended for children that portray a deviation from the identity of one's gender at birth, gender change, sexuality for its own sake, or depict or promote homosexuality." On this basis, therefore, sanctions may follow for the incorrect displaying of any book that even includes a gay character or a character with an alternative gender identity and is intended for children or teenagers.

We explained Hungary's anti-LGBTQ law introduced in 2021 in this article.

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