Government offices order employees to photograph and register every billboard in their area

July 25, 2017

Employees of district government offices have been ordered into the streets to photograph and register all outdoor billboards in their area, five days after a controversial new billboard law came in to force, reports daily Népszava.

Two employees per district have been tasked with taking three photographs of each and every billboard in their respective districts, according to Népszava’s source. Officials must take one photo of the billboard itself, one of its surroundings and a third in which the name of the publisher is visible. According to Népszava, the district government offices did not recruit new employees to undertake the task but sent out current staff, sometimes employees who work in completely different fields, such as social care.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office that oversees government offices, the offices are merely performing their duties stipulated in the law protecting settlements. That law recently went through a controversial modification by the ruling Fidesz-KDNP that included provisions that effectively hinder opposition parties’ ability to run billboard campaigns outside of campaign periods.

Meanwhile mysterious ad columns with the cryptic message “The people cannot be banned, but the government can be replaced,” surfaced in Budapest just days after far-right Jobbik had removed its political advertisements in compliance with the law. Since the black-and-white posters lack any information (logos, financial support information, etc.) connecting them to a political party or organization that receives state funding for campaigning (such ads are banned under the new law), they cannot be legally defined as political advertising.