Commissioner for Human Rights criticizes Hungary

December 19, 2014

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Earlier this week Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižneks submitted the findings of his visit to Hungary over the summer. The 43-page report discusses issues concerning media freedom, the fight against intolerance and discrimination, and human rights of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees. (The full report can be accessed here.)

“Hungary should better ensure media freedom, combat widespread intolerance and discrimination, and improve the protection of the human rights of migrants,” said Muižneks, who remains concerned that media suffers from an inadequate legal framework and political pressures in Hungary. “The mere existence of some provisions, such as severe sanctions, chills media freedom and pushed a number of media outlets towards self-censorship,” said the commissioner.

The report discusses how Hungary’s Media Council is problematic given its vulnerability to political influence and control. “Urgent action is needed to improve media freedom, including by repealing or reformulating the provisions of the Media Act on opinion and political views; extending the protection of sources to freelance journalists; excluding print and online media from the registration requirements; strengthening the independence of media regulatory bodies; and decriminalizing defamation,” said Muižneks.

He addressed concerns over the deterioration of the situation with regard to racism and intolerance, in particular targeting Roma, Jews, non-heterosexuals, asylum seekers and refugees, as well as the poor and homeless persons: “A worrying dimension of this problem is the visible presence of extremist organisations and their links with a political party (Jobbik) represented in parliament whose members are known for using anti-Roma and antisemitic rhetoric. The Hungarian authorities should combat intolerance and discrimination more resolutely, including by better investigating the possible racial motivation of offences and by imposing appropriate sanctions against individuals and groups who advocate or commit acts of racist violence, incite racial hatred and oppose the basic principles of democracy and the rule of law.”

Concerns are expressed in the report regarding Roma access to education, decent housing and employment. Regarding the rights of those with disabilities, the commissioner said: “The authorities should stop placements of persons with disabilities in institutions and avoid opening new, even if smaller, institutions. They should move resources from institutions to individualised support services.”

Muižnieks addressed concerns regarding policies and restrictive regulations that have led to the criminalization of homelessness, forced evictions, and children being taken away from their families as a result of poor socio-economic conditions. He stressed that Hungarian authorities should develop a national social housing strategy adapted to the needs of homeless persons.

Referenced in this article:

REPORT BY NILS MUIŽNIEKS COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE, COE.INT; 16 December 2014.

Hungary: progress needed on media freedom, anti-discrimination measures and migrants’ rights; COE.int; 16 December 2014.