Hungarian bookstore to fight fine for sale of LGBT-themed ‘Heartstopper’


BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary’s second-largest bookstore Lira said on Friday it plans to take legal action after it received a hefty government fine for the sale of an LGBT-themed British webcomic and graphic novel for minors without closed wrapping.

A Budapest government office on Thursday imposed a fine of 12 million forints ($36,000) on Lira, saying it broke the law by selling British author Alice Oseman’s “Heartstopper”, among other books for minors, without wrapping them in plastic foil.

Krisztian Nyary, Creative Director at Lira and a well-known author himself, told Reuters the fine was disproportionate, the law vaguely worded and that the bookstore would respond legally.

“As this is a resolution about a fine it cannot be appealed, it can only be attacked – in what way, our lawyers will assess,” he said. “We will use all legal means at our disposal.”

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government promotes a strongly Christian-conservative agenda and passed a law in 2021 banning the “display and promotion of homosexuality” among those under the age of 18 despite strong criticism from rights groups and the European Union. The measure was seen as resonating with Orban’s conservative voters in the countryside ahead of his fourth-term election win in 2022.

Nyary said the law was vague at several points.

He said some publishers had already voluntarily wrapped their books, trying to comply, but that it was not clear whether it was enough to place books affected by the law on a shelf for literature aimed for adults.

He said another issue was whether LGBT-themed books meant for adults would also have to be wrapped up or whether those could be sold without packaging.

“This is all not clear,” he said.

The law, which the government says aims to protect children, has caused anxiety in the LGBT community.

This is not the first time a Hungarian government office fined a bookstore for a violation of the law. The fresh fine came ahead of a Pride march in Budapest on Saturday.

Earlier on Friday, the embassies of the United States, Germany and 36 other countries urged Hungary’s government to protect the rights of LGBT people and scrap laws that discriminate against them.

($1 = 333.4100 forints)

(Reporting by Krisztina Fenyo; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)

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