Lázár orders government employees and police to destroy illegal ads

August 9, 2017

MTI Photo: Koszticsák Szilárd

Minister Overseeing the Prime Minister’s Office János Lázár (above) ordered employees of capital and county government offices to inspect and register ads, reports Magyar Nemzet.

Lázár referred to the law protecting settlements as justification for this latest campaign. The inspection will be conducted by government commissioners who will assemble work groups to undertake the task. The commissioners will have the authority to order employees working in other fields to join the work groups in case of a staff shortage.

According to Magyar Nemzet’s information, government offices will be authorized to investigate billboard ads based on simple notifications and reports. Moreover, the work groups will be authorized to request police assistance to search and destroy illegal ads.

At the end of July employees of district government offices were ordered into the streets to photograph and register all outdoor billboards in their area, five days after the new billboard law came into force.

The decree issued by Lázár explicitly targets the seller of billboard sites, who will have to cover the costs of the removal of any billboard ads deemed illegal, reports Magyar Nemzet. Government offices will be allowed to merge abuses committed by a given owner into a single case.

It is unclear, however, what basis Lázár will find to warrant removal of billboard ads posted by private companies on the order of a private person, since the law protecting settlements only bans political parties from posting political ads. Fidesz MP János Halász already indicated at a press conference that Fidesz is willing to close this loophole in the law, and that the party will discuss the possible solutions at the September faction meeting.

The Fidesz-Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP)-controlled parliament adopted a modification of the law protecting settlements in late June prohibiting political parties from posting political ads outside of campaign periods. The governing coalition failed to muster the two-thirds parliamentary support for the bill, so for the second time, they resourcefully placed the regulations into a modification of the law protecting settlements, which needs only a relative majority.

For this reason the bill is unconstitutional according to some legal experts, since modifications affecting parties’ finances can only be adopted with a two-thirds majority. After the bill’s adoption, the radical right-wing Jobbik and the green liberal Dialogue for Hungary (PM) parties announced that they would appeal to the Constitutional Court.