Archive item

Title: Wrong direction on rights: Assessing the impact of Hungary’s new constitution and laws
Other/original title:
Publisher: Human Rights Watch
Files: HRW_Wrong_Direction_On_Rights.pdf
Abstract: In May 2013, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published this report about the impact of the new constitution and related laws which entered into force in January 2012 and their successive amendments, most recently in March 2013. The new laws have weakened legal checks on the government's authority, interfered with media freedom, and undermined human rights protection, HRW argues. The report examines their effects on judicial independence and administration, the powers of the Constitutional Court, political participation and religious freedom; and the way they interfere with the rights of women, LGBT people and the homeless. A five-page chapter about media freedom singles out the new media regulator, "headed by a political appointee with close ties to the government," as well as reports of self-censorship in media faced with the threat of high fines and unclear regulations. Independent media report declining advertising revenues as the government cuts them off from state advertising and businesses are "reluctant to appear supportive of media outlets critical of the government". Public television has suffered political interference, the report states, and editors and journalists who objected lost their jobs as part of a larger restructuring. According to the report, amendments to the media laws in May 2012 actually introduced additional problems, and the latest changes, passed in March 2013 after talks with the Council of Europe, slightly modified the appointment process for the head of the Media Authority, but "fail to address" the political appointments of Media Council members. In the same month, the 'Fourth Amendment' introduced a overbroad provision in the constitution that prohibits speech "violating the dignity of the Hungarian nation" or any national, ethnic, or religious minority group. The report includes a set of recommendations, and those on media freedom include restructuring the regulatory authorities to ensure their independence, decreasing disproportionately high fines, and restructuring the broadcast licensing regime to ensure impartiality and transparency. Those changes should also stipulate that the Media Council has to comply with legal rulings regarding tenders, the recommendation adds, in reference to the legal disputes about the oppositional Klubrádio's frequencies.
Publication/ adoption date: 2013-05
Language: English
Rights: © 2013 Human Rights Watch