Archive item

Title: Democracy and human rights at stake in Hungary: The Viktor Orbán government’s drive for centralisation of power
Other/original title:
Publisher: Norwegian Helsinki Committee
Files: NHC_Democracy_and_human_rights_at_stake_in_Hungary.pdf
Abstract: In early 2013, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee published its second report on legal and political developments in Hungary, drafted and edited by Lillian Solheim and Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal. It includes an 8-page chapter about threats to media freedom, which delves into the role of the Media Council, the Klubradio case, and criticisms of the new media laws by international organizations. Other chapters deal with constitutional and legal reform, specifically regarding the Constitutional Court, the National Judicial Office, the retirement age of judges, and reform of the electoral system; the growth of the extreme right; and the situation of the Roma minority, including segregated education and hate speech and hate crime. The report concludes that the government "has weakened institutional checks and balances and compromised the independence of institutions central to the rule of law and democracy" and that "the sum of legislative changes and appointment policies form a trend where ... Fidesz is gaining hegemonic power". Although Hungary is unlikely to "join the club of autocratic regimes," the report warns that "opaque party financing, political corruption, servile media and politically abused courts" do constitute perfect conditions for semi-authoritarian rule. On media freedom, it notes that the Hungarian media market is "vibrant, with a wide range of print, broadcast, and internet outlets," but that domestic ownership is dominated by government supporters and quality non-partisan journalism is mainly restricted to weeklies and the internet. It describes how all members of the Media Council, with its extensive sanctioning powers, were selected by Fidesz MPs and serve indefinitely renewable nine-year terms, longer than is the case for any similar authority in Europe. The report records "a range of cases of biased and politicised media coverage" by the public broadcaster and concerns about government efforts to strengthen supportive media and weaken critics through tenders and allocation of state advertisements. Finally, it describes amendments that were passed to the laws, but concludes that "serious problems" remain, leaving "considerable space for political influence and obstruction," creating barriers against investigative and critical journalism, and undermining media pluralism. The report includes a list of specific recommendations.
Publication/ adoption date: 2013-01
Language: English