Hungary's media regulator said Wednesday it was fining a pro-government newspaper over a column by a prominent right-wing journalist close to Prime Minister Viktor Orban describing the Roma minority as "animals".
Following a stabbing incident involving young Roma men, Zsolt Bayer, one of the founders of Orban's Fidesz party, wrote in January: "Most Gypsies are not suitable for cohabitation.
"They are not suitable for being among people. Most are animals, and behave like animals. They shouldn't be tolerated or understood, but avenged. Animals should not exist. In no way," he said.
Orban has long been accused of pandering to the openly anti-Semitic and racist far-right Jobbik party and of presiding over a rise in xenophobia in the EU member state, although he says he abhors any such feelings.
The media regulator said that the article in the Magyar Hirlap newspaper, headlined "Those Who Shouldn't Exist", was "not in harmony with regulations on media content and press freedom pertaining to hate speech and discriminatory content."
It said it was fining the newspaper 250,000 forints (833 euros, $1,120) and ordered it to publish the decision in both its print and online versions, while also prohibiting it from publishing similar content in the future.
After the remarks sparked protests in Hungary and abroad Bayer said his comments were "deliberately misinterpreted".
"I don't want to liquidate Gypsies, neither some of them nor a single one," he said.
"I want order, I want every respectable Gypsy to be happy in this country and every Gypsy who is incapable of and unsuitable for living together to be excluded from society," he added.
The Roma people, also called Gypsies though many consider the term pejorative, are a minority in several eastern and central European countries.