Adoption of Hungary's Universal Periodic Review amidst increasing civic space restrictions

Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights -- Outcome Adoption for Hungary

Delivered by Nicola Paccamiccio

Thank you, Mr President.

Mr President, CIVICUS welcomes the government of Hungary's engagement with the UPR process.

Since its last review, Hungary failed to implement any of its 33 recommendations relating to civic space. We regret that Hungary accepted just 13 of the 31 civic space recommendations it received during this cycle.

Space for civil society is increasingly being restricted in Hungary.

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have faced ongoing attempts to restrict their funding. Although the government repealed the Lex-NGO foreign funding law which was declared unlawful by the European Court of Justice in June 2020, it adopted a new law that threatens the work of NGOs by permitting the State Audit Office to selectively audit NGOs which have a budget that exceeds 20 million forints (55,000 Euros).

The Hungarian government also gave up 2,3 billion Norwegian kroner (€220 million) which it was set to receive from the European Economic Area (EEA) and Norway Grants for civil society. It set up the Urban Civic Fund (Városi Civil Alap) to replace the Norway Grants which has been financing ‘NGOs’ directly controlled by or linked to politicians of the Fidesz governing party.

The ongoing erosion of LGBTQI+ rights remains a concern, with the government passing several restrictive pieces of legislation which directly target LGBTQI+ people. The latest anti-LGBTQI propaganda law bans LGBTQI+ media, advertising and educational materials and has resulted in limiting freedom of expression and association for LGBTQI+ focused CSOs.

Media independence has been repeatedly threatened as a result of ongoing political influence over Hungary’s media regulatory bodies, with the government's control over the National Media and Communications Authority (NHHH) and its Media Council resulting in diminishing space for independent media. We particularly regret that Hungary did not accept recommendations to take specific measures to ensure media freedom.

Independent media have frequently been denied access to information; however, this practice has  further worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, journalists report being denied access to interview health experts and being barred from hospitals, with the government recently passing a decree stating that only the Operational Tribunal, the government centre in charge of managing the pandemic, would decide on press and media accreditation for journalists to access hospitals. 

A recent investigation revealed that the government used Pegasus spyware to surveil investigative journalists.

Mr President, CIVICUS calls on the Government of Hungary to take concrete steps to address these concerns, including by withdrawing restrictive legislation and amendments that restrict the activities of civil society organisations and their funding and refraining from obstructing the work of independent journalists.

We thank you.


 Civic space in Hungary is rated as obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor

 

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