Hungary

Orbán government secures landslide victory spelling further concerns for civic freedoms

Although the governing Fidesz party, which came to power in 2010, faced a united opposition for the first time, it secured a landslide victory on 3rd April 2022 in the parliamentary elections. For several years, civil society, and even European institutions, have raised concerns about democratic backsliding in the country, and critics feared that the election process would not meet the minimum standards of fairness. The preliminary findings of the OSCE mission found that the election process was not fair, with the presense of unbalanced and biased media coverage. In the lead up to the elections, civil society faced smear campaigns aimed at attacking their credibility, while the government passed a new decree which would further limit which press are allowed access to hospitals to report on COVID-19. Although the governments LGBTQI+ referendum was declared invalid, concerns for LGBTQI+ rights remain. Read more

Orbán government secures landslide victory spelling further concerns for civic freedoms

Government cements further power over media; effects of anti-LGBTQI law seen

There have been concerning developments on media freedom. In October 2021), Mónika Karas, President of the National Media and Communications Authority (NHHH) and its Media Council resigned from her position. Karas was appointed in 2013 for a nine-year term. Under Karas’s leadership, the regulatory bodies have contributed to systematic declines in media freedom and the steady silencing of critical voices. . Karas’s early resignation opened the door for the ruling populist right-wing Fidesz party to decide on a new president for the next nine years before the upcoming general elections, thereby consolidating their power over a strategically important territory. There have been further concerning developments on LGBTQI+ rights. Several conquences have been documented as a result of the new anti-LGBTQI+ law: such as the censoring of a LGBTQI+ film and book. Additionally, the law has had a chilling effect: CSO's working on human rights have been denied access to schools while teachers and psychologists have to self-censor. Read more

Government cements further power over media; effects of anti-LGBTQI law seen

Orbán government alleged to have used Pegasus spyware on investigative journalists

As its next step in a long trail of attacks against independent civil society, the Hungarian government banned anonymous donations to NGOs from 1st July 2021. However, this rule was overturned two weeks later. A few weeks later, the Hungarian government gave up 2,3 billion Norwegian kroner (€220 million) which it was set to receive from the European Economic Area (EEA) and Norway Grants Scheme due to failure to reach an agreement over who should distribute funds to civil society. On 24th July 2021, thousands of Hungarians joined the Pride Parade in Budapest to protest the government's anti-LGBTI rhetoric and legislation. On 30th July 2021, Hungary’s National Election Committee approved the government's request for a referendum, which is meant to protect the new anti-LGBTI legislation from “the attacks of Brussels”. Meanwhile, French NGO Forbidden Stories published their investigation into Israeli surveillance company NSO’s hacking spyware, revealing that amongst other countries Hungary used the spyware to spy on investigative journalists. Read more

Orbán government alleged to have used Pegasus spyware on investigative journalists

A ‘dark day’ for LGBTI rights in Hungary, leading to calls for urgent EU action

The rights of LGBTI persons have come under severe attack amid the pandemic. On 15th June 2021 the Hungarian Parliament passed an anti-LGBTI law which bans education and advertising that is deemed to “popularise” or even depict, consensual same-sex conduct or the affirming of one’s gender to children. The measures have been equated to Russia’s 2013 law against “gay propaganda”. Following this, the European Commission said it will take legal steps against Hungary’s new anti-LGBTI legislation, with President of the commission Ursula von der Leyen calling the bill a “shame”. More than ten months ago the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) ruled that the Hungarian ‘LexNGO’ law that was in force from 2017 was in breach of EU laws, on 18th May 2021, the Hungarian Parliament repealed it. However, at the same time, the Parliament adopted a new law that threatens the work of NGOs.
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A ‘dark day’ for LGBTI rights in Hungary, leading to calls for urgent EU action

Orbán’s government targets LGBTI rights amid the pandemic and bans protests

There have been several concerning developments regarding LGBTI rights. On 15th December 2020, the parliament amended the Hungarian Constitution to include the following sentence: “The mother is a woman, the father is a man”. In addition, the amendment prevents adoptions by non-married couples. These amendments will adversely impact on LGBTI people. There have been several moves to censor LGBTI content. The Labrisz Lesbian Association was ordered by the government to print disclaimers identifying books containing “behaviour inconsistent with traditional gender roles”. The book called “Wonderland is For Everyone” contains stories that promote respect of people from all backgrounds and sexual orientations. Legal proceedings were brought against RTL Hungary media group by Hungary’s media regulator for broadcasting an advertisement which raised awareness about LGBTI families. NGO's remain under thereat. Several NGOs have refused to comply with the foreign funding NGO law, which was declared in violation fo EU law by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). As a result, the Tempus Public Foundation, which was established by the government, rejected an EU grant application by the Power of Humanity Foundation (PHF). Read more

Orbán’s government targets LGBTI rights amid the pandemic and bans protests

Unabated attacks on LGBTI rights amid the pandemic

Minutes before the new COVID-19 restrictions came into effect amid the second wave, the government proposed a draft amendment to the constitution. In particular, two changes will reinforce institutionalised homophobia and transphobia. A sentence will be added to Article L and will define that: “the mother is a woman; the father is a man”. The second change, Article XVI (1) will include the provision that: “Hungary protects children’s rights to their identity in line with their birth sex, and the right to education according to our country’s constitutional identity and system of values based on Christian culture”. In addition, draft amendments to the Civil Code and the Child Protection Act were also submitted. If the relevant amendments pass, single parents will be able to adopt only under special circumstances and their adoption must be approved by the minister of family. Added to this, the Justice Committee of the Hungarian Parliament presented legislation that would abolish the Equal Treatment Authority (ETA), a body which has been successful in addressing discrimination against the LGBTI community, with the Hungarian Commissioner for Fundamental Rights absorbing its activities, in order to provide a more efficient institutional structure. Experts say that it is no coincidence that the proposed legislative changes came at the same time that physical, public gatherings and demonstrations became prohibited in Hungary.


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Unabated attacks on LGBTI rights amid the pandemic

Further erosion of media and academic freedom; attacks on LGBTI-friendly children’s book

The attacks on freedom of expression have not stopped with the demise of Index- the leading independent news site in Hungary. On 11th September 2020, Hungary’s Media Council decided not to automatically extend the licence of the radio station Klubrádió. Klubrádió, which is one of the few remaining critical outlets in Hungary, has, according to the government-appointed Media Council, repeatedly violated the country’s media law. For this reason, the Media Council said, the radio outlet would have to apply for a new licence. Independent media are not the only bodies subject to threats from Hungary’s illiberal forces. Academic freedom is also under threat as students from the University of Theatre and Film Arts have staged protests, since 31st August 2020, against the Orban government’s infiltration of their university. In an attack on LGBTI rights, during an online press conference, Dora Duro, a politician of the far-right party Mi Hazank (Our Homeland) attacked a new children’s book which retells fairy tales with LGBTI+ individuals as the main characters. Read more

Further erosion of media and academic freedom; attacks on LGBTI-friendly children’s book

EU court finds that NGO foreign funding law violates EU law, independent media under threat

On 17th June 2020 government announced an end to the “state of danger”, but immediately declared a “state of medical crisis”, which will continue to allow the government to issue a wide range of decrees and restrict certain rights. This declaration cannot be lifted by parliament and human rights organisations are concerned that this will only lead to further powers for the Orbán government. In a positive development, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that a Hungarian law concerning foreign funding of non-governmental organisations “does not comply with the Union law”. The court found that the law imposed "discriminatory and unjustified restrictions" on those organisations affected. Freedom of expression is increasingly under threat, with the biggest and most-read independent news site, Index.hu, reporting that it is currently under threat from external pressures. Read more

EU court finds that NGO foreign funding law violates EU law, independent media under threat

Concerns over democratic decline, with transgender rights and freedom of speech under attack

In early May 2020, US-based rights watchdog Freedom House in their "Nations in Transit" report said that Hungary experienced "the most precipitous" democratic decline ever tracked by the organisation. The so-called Authorisation Act was adopted on 30th March 2020 and introduced excessively wide powers without a sunset clause. The act has further exacerbated the deterioration of the rule of law and the state of democracy in Hungary.
 In addition, the Hungarian parliament passed an amendment to the omnibus bill changing the Registry act to only recognise “sex at birth”, which was later signed into law by President Janos Ader. The new law makes the legal recognition of transgender and intersex persons impossible and will lead to further discrimination of these groups.
Attacks on freedom of expression continue as police detained two people for spreading pandemic-related fake news. While the prosecutors decided to drop their cases against the two individuals, it is likely that such developments will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression. Read more

Concerns over democratic decline, with transgender rights and freedom of speech under attack

‘Corona virus bill’ seeks to erode freedom of expression even further

Following the declaration of a state of emergency due to the Corona Virus (COVID-19) pandemic, the government has submitted the Protection against the Coronavirus bill to Parliament which seeks to prolong emergency measures for as long as the government deems necessary. In addition, journalists may face up to five years jail time for spreading 'fake news'. Media freedom organisatons and critics fear that this will further deteriorate freedom of expression and the rule of law in Hungary, which is already under threat. Read more

‘Corona virus bill’ seeks to erode freedom of expression even further