CIVICUS

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Hungary

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Last updated on 06.11.2018 at 11:12

Hungary-Overview

Throughout 2015-16, Hungary has been at the centre of the recent refugee flows into Europe, from Syria and the north and horn of Africa.

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Police in Hungary are already using a restrictive new law to ban protests

Police in Hungary are already using a restrictive new law to ban protests

On 1st October 2018, a new law on the administration of public assemblies came into force, and was quickly applied by Hungarian police.

Peaceful Assembly

On 1st October 2018, a new law on public assemblies came into effect in Hungary. The new law, which has been sharply criticised by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) and other human rights organisations, includes several provisions that make it much more restrictive than its predecessor. The new law gives discretion to the police, such that now they can ban public assemblies for a wide range of reasons, for instance protecting public order and security, protecting the rights and freedoms of others, protecting international political leaders. According to Szabolcs Hegyi, an expert on the freedom of assembly at HCLU, the new law makes it convenient for the police to suppress civic activism through administrative measures.

As expected, the police have used these new powers. In early October 2018, they refused permission for a demonstration against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which was being organised by opposition party, the Democratic Coalition. At the same time, police gave the green light to a "sympathy protest" held by the local Turkish community just a few metres from the site requested by the Democratic Coalition. Erogan paid an official visit to Hungary in early October, where he received a "warm welcome" from Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Association

As the CIVICUS Monitor previously reported, on 24th August 2018 a new law imposing a "special tax" on organisations that "support immigration" was enacted. In September, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) filed a complaint about the law with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). They also challenged the new criminal provision threatening those who assist asylum seekers with imprisonment before the ECtHR and the Hungarian Constitutional Court. In its legal submission, HHC argues that:

“the new legal provisions only serve to intimidate civil society organizations, are unconstitutional and violate fundamental human rights".

Association

The right to freedom of association is guaranteed under Hungary’s constitution.

The right to freedom of association is guaranteed under Hungary’s constitution. State funding to NGOs is centralised through the National Cooperation Fund, which is a body made up of political appointees.

NGOs critical of recent government policy have been subject to administrative and judicial harassment, and threatened with deregistration. In January 2015, four NGOs responsible for managing and distributing a grant from the European Economic Area (EEA) and Norway were threatened with the suspension of their tax registration number, and proceedings were initiated against them. The proceedings were later suspended, but were found to be constitutional by Hungary’s Constitutional Court. Two of the NGOs affected were subject to criminal investigations into their activities, which resulted in findings of no wrong-doing. In written communications to the Hungarian Government, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association voiced concern that state actions may “obstruct and stigmatise the work of associations operating in the country”.

Peaceful Assembly

The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is largely observed in policy and practice under provisions of the Fundamental Law.

The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is largely observed in policy and practice under provisions of the Fundamental Law. However, the three-day notification requirement remains the main rule applicable to organisers of gatherings in contravention of international best practice which suggests a maximum 48 hour notification period. In contradiction of domestic law, authorities have also prevented assemblies on the assumption that criminal offences may be committed by participants. Vulnerable and minority groups, including members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) and refugee communities – have been subjected to additional barriers to their exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. On 4th June 2015, the Mayor of Budapest István Tarlós made a public statement in which he said that the Budapest Pride march - organised by the rainbow Mission Foundation, a CSO promoting the rights of LGBTI people – was ‘repulsive.’

Expression

Whilst the right to freedom of expression is guaranteed under Hungary’s constitution, this right is subverted through complex legal and regulatory requirements.

Whilst the right to freedom of expression is guaranteed under Hungary’s constitution, this right is subverted through complex legal and regulatory requirements. The Media Council, under the auspices of the National Media and Infocommunications Authority, has the power to impose substantial fines, and is perceived as lacking political independence. Criminal defamation charges are routinely brought against journalists, by politicians, with at least 17 cases filed in 2015 alone.