Hungarians auction their state awards to protest columnist

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Over a dozen Hungarians are auctioning off their state awards because journalist and writer Zsolt Bayer, known for his anti-Semitic and racist references, was granted a similar distinction last month.

Jeno Kaltenbach, a former ombudsman for minority rights and the first to announce he was giving up his Cross of the Order of Merit, said Monday that surrendering the medal was a "moral obligation."

Daily newspaper Magyar Hirlap has been fined twice by media authorities for publishing columns by Bayer including hateful remarks about Roma and Muslims. Bayer, a member of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party, received the award in part for his "exemplary journalistic activities."

Organizers said auction proceeds, expected to reach the equivalent of several thousand dollars, would be used to assist poor children and families.