HUNGARY: EU member states warned that inertia is enabling rights deterioration

(Amnesty International – 11 September 2019)

One year after the momentous European Parliament (EP) vote to trigger Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union on Hungary for failing to uphold EU founding values, Amnesty International has joined Hungarian organisations to warn EU member states that continuing to ignore ever increasing threats in the country may soon lead to irreparable damage.

Since last year’s vote, the Hungarian government has extended its control over the media and the judiciary and continued to silence dissent and intimidate individuals and organizations attempting to hold the government to account

Eve Geddie, Director of the European Institutions Office

“After losing a year to procedural disputes, EU Ministers meeting next week must finally stop allowing the Hungarian government to run away with their people’s freedoms.”

Amnesty International Hungary, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union and Mertek Media Monitor have issued a new briefing showing that threats to human rights in Hungary have increased both in number and in breadth in the past year. The briefing details how the Hungarian government has stepped up its attacks on the independence of the judiciary, media freedom, gender equality, public education, the LGBTI community, and the rights of asylum-seekers and refugees since Article 7 was triggered in September 2018.

The independence of the judiciary has been further undermined in the last year by the prolonged constitutional crisis between key judicial actors, which has continued to hinder the effective supervision of court administration. This has been exacerbated by a vitriolic propaganda campaign against critical judges.

The further centralisation of media ownership has meant that pro-government media now control around 80% of media outlets, which the Hungarian authorities have used to run campaigns targeting certain individuals, groups and organisations, including to spread homophobic narratives. Both the government and certain public figures have depicted LGBTI people as a “new enemy”, with the intention of inciting hatred against them.  In 2019, Hungary witnessed a spike in verbal and physical attacks against participants and organisers of events associated with Budapest Pride month.

“The Hungarian government is still trying to portray civil society organisations as ‘enemies of the state’, often using pro-government media to spread their toxic message. These organisations are being subjected to stigmatising legislation designed to restrict their activity and punish them financially,” said Eve Geddie.

Asylum-seekers and refugees are also vilified by the government, which rejects every asylum application on a semi-automatic basis and denies food to refused adult asylum seekers awaiting deportation in the transit zones on the border with Serbia.

Ministers attending the General Affairs Council (GAC) meeting on 16 September will discuss the situation in Hungary for the first time since Article 7 was triggered.

“It is now high time for the European Council to deal with the existential threat to people’s freedoms in Hungary. The European Parliament voted to trigger Article 7 last year to protect people in Hungary from the destructive actions of their government, now it is the Ministers’ turn to defend the principles of the European Union and human rights, said Eve Geddie.


NGO Briefing from January 2018: