Hungarian bookstore fined thousands for not concealing Heartstopper graphic novel

On the left, the cover of graphic novel Heartstopper volume 1. On the right, Alice Oseman wearing a blue jacket.

A Hungarian bookstore chain has been fined thousands by the government for failing to conceal copies of Heartstopper, saying it breaches the country’s law prohibiting sharing LGBTQ+ content with minors. 

Lira Konyv, Hungary’s second-largest bookstore chain, was fined 12 million forints – equal to £27,500 or $35,930 – for displaying Alice Oseman’s graphic novel Heartstopper in stores without sealed packaging.  

In 2021, Hungarian lawmakers passed a bill which banned LGBTQ+ content being shared with minors, which supporters characterised as a bid to protect children from sexual predators.

As part of the legislation, it is stipulated booksellers must place children’s books that depict homosexuality in “closed packaging”

The Budapest Metropolitan Government Office, which issued the fine, conducted an investigation into the chain and the way in which it displayed and sold Heartstopper

A spokesperson for the office said: “The investigation found that the books in question depicted homosexuality, but they were nevertheless placed in the category of children’s books and youth literature, and were not distributed in closed packaging.”

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The office added it “will always take strict action against companies that do not comply with the law”. 

Charlie and Nick, Heartstopper
Nick and Charlie in upcoming scenes from Heartstopper season two. (Netflix)

This is not the first time Hungary’s government has fined booksellers over LGBTQ+ content. 

In July 2021, authorities fined the distributor of What a Family – a combined Hungarian translation of the books Early One Morning and Bedtime, Not Playtime! by American author Lawrence Schimel.

The children’s books contain same-sex parents and a government official claimed the distributor failed to show the Hungarian translation contained “content which deviates from the norm”, issuing a fine to the company equivalent to $840. 

Commenting on the fine, Pest County commissioner Richard Tarnai said: “The book was there among other fairytale books and thus committed a violation. 

“There is no way of knowing that this book is about a family that is different than a normal family.”

Hungary’s anti-LGBTQ+ legislation has drawn criticism from human rights groups and other European nations, which have compared it to Russia’s anti-gay propaganda laws and highlighted the dangers of conflating being LGBTQ+ with paedophilla. 

At the time the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation was passed, Germany’s deputy foreign minister Michael Roth tweeted that the move “goes against everything we regard as our common European values”.

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