A Hungarian state honour given to a prominent journalist described by many as an anti-Semite and racist has prompted several dozen recipients of the same award to return theirs in protest.

By late Monday, 40 previous recipients of the decoration including scientists, artists, and academics had posted messages on social media saying they were returning their own awards in protest.

The journalist Zsolt Bayer, who is close to Prime Minister Viktor Orban, was one of several Hungarian citizens handed an Order of Merit of the Knight’s Cross by President Janos Ader in a ceremony in Budapest on Saturday, one of Hungary’s national days.

The head of Hungary’s largest Jewish organisation Maszihisz, Andras Heisler, said he was also handing back his award given him in 2011 as he did not want to belong to the same “group of people” as Bayer.

The journalist “is a racist, an anti-Semite, who pollutes Hungary with his incandescent Gypsy-hatred and nation-destroying ideas,” Heisler wrote in a Facebook message.

Bayer is a founder of a civil group that organises massive pro-government street demonstrations. He also writes an occasional column in the right-wing Magyar Hirlap daily.

He has in the past compared the Roma people, Hungary’s 600,000- to 700,000-strong largest minority group, to “animals”, and written remarks seen as anti-Semitic in a country with a Jewish community estimated at over 100,000.

Source: Arutz Sheva