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Between deprivations and protests: analysis of the human rights situation in Hungary

In recent months the media have often reported news about Hungary, the numerous and sometimes violent street protests against the government and, more recently, the country's stance against some European choices.

Hungary is a Republic but has often been the focus of criticism regarding the real degree of democracy in the territory, following dubious decisions taken by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, in office with the Fidesz - Hungarian Civic Union party, since 2010.

The violations of fundamental human rights that occur daily in Hungary appear to be effective and numerous. In July of this year, among the most important violation there is that of the government's opposition, which occupied the main squares to counter the almost total deprivation of one of the rights, which is the first to be lacking in countries where democracy leads to a regime, freedom of the press.

In Hungary, 90% of the media is said to be controlled by the government, and openly pro-Orban, numerous newspapers have been bought by men close to the president.This is the case of Index, an independent online newspaper, Miklos Vaszily, an entrepreneur close to Orban, has acquired 50% of the shares of a company that controls the advertising and revenue of the newspaper in question.

Veronika Munk, deputy editor-in-chief of Index, said in an interview for La Repubblica: "It has really gotten worse in the last ten years (since Orbán came to power). Many publishing companies have changed ownership and now have strong ties to the government. Many pro-government foundations control the major newspapers, major TV stations, many radio stations. Index was the leading online newspaper, read by everyone, offering 24-hour news, video, live. A successful multimedia platform. In the last few weeks, after the director's dismissal, I have perceived external influences on the news bill at various meetings. Unacceptable. The independence of information in the way we see it is indispensable".

This condition led to the resignation of 80 out of 90 of the newspaper's workers, as a sign of protest against the forced control imposed, after the dismissal of the editor who functioned as a bastion of independence. These increasing controls triggered chain reactions against the government and caused not only the resignation of a large number of journalists but also the outrage of people outside the newspaper who joined the protests.

At the same time, in the ten years of Orbán's presidency, Hungary went from 23rd to 89th out of 180 countries in the press freedom index compiled by "Reporters Without Borders".

Hungary is not new to restrictions on rights, discrimination and repression. Many categories in the country are discriminated against. In 2019, racist hate speech against the Gypsies, migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and other minorities, including by prominent public figures, was made on several occasions. Among others, the parliament's spokesman often spoke out against people who identify with the Lgbt+ movement, making homophobic and discriminatory comments.

Moreover, as reported by Amnesty International, following her visit to the country in February 2019, the Council of Europe's Commissioner on Human Rights concluded that Hungary was falling behind on gender equality and women's rights, introducing policies that relegate women to an exclusively domestic role.

But what makes Hungary's future most feared is what happened in February, during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic. In the Hungarian parliament, the Országház, the "Authorisation Act" was voted by 137 votes in favour and 53 against to give Prime Minister Viktor Orbán full powers to fight the coronavirus. With this law, the Hungarian Prime Minister can rule by decree without the approval of Parliament, block elections and suspend laws already in force.

Europe has intervened several times, particularly on this alarming occasion, because of the violation of Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union which reads:

"The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society characterised by pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men".

Despite the fact that on 16 June the Hungarian Parliament passed a bill to end the state of emergency, several humanitarian organisations point out that this is not a real step backwards for Orbán. In fact, in the event of a new emergency, the government remains free to take over full powers again, for an unlimited period of time,.

According to last May's report, compiled by the non-governmental organisation Freedom House, Hungary is categorised as a country which, after ten years of Viktor Orbán's rule, can no longer be considered a democratic state but a middle ground between democracy and autocracy. With a score of 70 out of 100 it was defined in the Freedom House report as partially free. Hungary is therefore getting worse as it is no longer a fully democratic state, and for this reason we must not lose sight of developments in the future.

Translated by Francesca Cioffi

Original version by Sofia Perinetti

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  • L'Autore

    Sofia Perinetti

    Sofia Perinetti è laureata in magistrale in Scienze Internazionali e della Cooperazione, ha approfondito nella sua carriera universitaria e post il lato delle relazioni internazionali che concerne la cooperazione internazionale come strumento di aiuto e sostegno verso paesi terzi.

    E' interessata sin dai primi anni di università alla tutela dei diritti umani e per questo in Mondo Internazionale è presente nel team di Diritti Umani come vice dello Chief Editor, è inoltre presente nel team di grant-management ed infine di GEO. Questi tre team le permettono di esprimere a pieno gli interessi sociali e culturali che la contraddistinguono.

    Sofia Perinetti has a degree in International and Cooperation Sciences, she has deepened in her university career and post the side of international relations that concerns international cooperation as an instrument of aid and support to third countries.

    Since the first years of university she has been interested in the protection of human rights and for this reason in Mondo Internazionale she is present in the Human Rights team as deputy to the Chief Editor, she is also present in the grant-management team and finally in GEO. These three teams allow her to fully express the social and cultural interests that distinguish her.

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