Last month activists Kinga Kalocsai and András Szeles vandalized one of the government’s xenophobic billboards, walked into a police station, and turned themselves in. Hungarian leftist blog Kettős Mérce (Double Standard) reports that a Budapest court has now exonerated the perpetrators their crimes. The court based its ruling on precedence, citing first the Fundamental Law (Hungary’s constitution) and an earlier Constitutional Court decision, and declared that vandalizing a billboard can be a form of freedom of expression.
The court warned that its decision does not extend to all forms of vandalizing a billboard. The direct and targeted manner in which the activists had done so was clearly political in nature, and the activists clearly accepted responsibility for this action. Therefore, the court ruled, no crime was committed.
The court ruled that vandalizing the government’s national consultation billboard is protected in cases when the action itself poses no threat to society and is a form of freedom of expression.
The court cited Article IX. of the Fundamental Law, which states that freedom of expression is important for development of public opinion and democracy.
“It provides the opportunity for the individual to express their opinion, influence the opinions of others, and to convince others of their opinion.” The court said that “in this particular case the [individuals] were exercising their fundamental rights when they tore the billboards down to express their political opinion”.