Curia rules local newspapers may not engage in campaign-like activities other than running ads

March 7, 2018

Curia rules local newspapers may not engage in campaign-like activities other than running ads

Overturning rulings by the Local Election Committee and the National Election Committee (NVB), Hungary’s highest court, the Curia, ruled on Tuesday that local newspapers may not engage in campaign-like activities apart from running political advertisements, reports index.hu.

The case involves the February 22nd edition of Budapest District XX (Csepel) newspaper Csepeli Hírmondó, in which Fidesz deputy chairman, MP, and former Csepel mayor Szilárd Németh’s name and/or photograph appears on 11 out of 22 pages in what the court ruled was an obvious attempt to popularize the joint Fidesz-KDNP candidate for parliament, writes the daily online.

Within a day or two of its publication, Együtt (Together) chairman Péter Juhász filed a formal complaint with the local election committee, arguing that the publication’s lack of impartiality violated the electoral law by creating an unequal situation among the candidates.

The local election committee rejected the complaint on the grounds that

  • Szilárd Németh did not appear in the publication often as a candidate for parliament.
  • His appearance did not popularize him as a candidate for parliament.
  • At the time of the newspaper’s publication, Németh was the only candidate who had received enough endorsement signatures to be registered as a candidate (i.e. the newspaper could not have known who the other candidates would be-ed.).
  • Other potential candidates had failed to inform the newspaper that they wished to appear in it.

Appealing the decision to the National Election Committee, Juhász’s petition was rejected on the grounds that

  • one edition was not representative of the publication.
  • the references and photographs of Németh pertained to his activities as a member of parliament and not a candidate for parliament.
  • Együtt had failed to mention in its complaint other campaign events relating to other candidates the newspaper might have covered.

Undeterred, the Együtt chairman turned to the Curia for legal redress. Overturning the earlier two decisions, the high court ruled that the publication had indeed violated the equal opportunity provisions of the electoral law.

The Curia forbade the newspaper’s publisher from further such violations and ordered it to formally acknowledge in print that, in its excessive coverage of the joint Fidesz-KDNP candidate for parliament, the publication had violated the right to equal opportunity of the candidates and organizations nominating them.