Coronavirus Contaminating European Unity - Orban’s Hungary Puts a new Muzzle on Free press
Coronavirus Contaminating European Unity
Orban’s Hungary Puts
a new Muzzle on Free ress
The European Union will be a
different one after the coronavirus crisis. This is already very much certain,
only the extent of the damage is yet be estimated.
Europe-wide coordination, we are witnessing political solo efforts, mutual
recriminations and border closures.
The development in Hungary is
extremely worrying. Viktor Orban is shamelessly using the pandemic there to
disempower Parliament, repress freedom of expression and muzzle a critical
press. The duration of these coercive measures is completely uncertain. He
creates - with the support of a two-thirds majority of his loyal party - an
emergency regime, although Hungary is far less affected by the corona virus
than most other EU countries. At the beginning of the year, no one thought it
possible that such comprehensive concentration of powers would ever be decided
in Europe again.
Journalists Association -The Communication Network (EJ) expresses deep concern
about this unprecedented decision.
Having in mind that the Hungarian
Government identifies with its Prime Minister Viktor Orban, in reality the extraordinary
powers are concentrated in the hands of one person. All this under the pretext
of allowing the government to act as quickly as possible to fight the coronavirus.
The criminal rules introduced
against journalists in the event of dissemination of news that does not
correspond to the reality, are extremely worrying. The possibility of
rectification, permitted in every democracy, is disallowed and instead
imprisonment of up to 3 years, and even up to 5 years in the case of uncomfortable
news concerning the coronavirus is envisaged. And who decides if a piece of
news is right or false? Incredibly, the decision is up to the government,
namely President Viktor Orban.
All parliamentary democracies in the
world have introduced understandable emergency regulations to fight coronavirus,
but without depriving their Parliaments of control.
EJ calls on the European Commission,
the European Council and the European Parliament to take urgent action to
remedy such flagrant violation of press freedom in a country of the European
Union, which defies principles, values and fundamental rights enshrined
in its Treaties.
should also to be considered incompatible with the presence in the European
Union of a state which violates freedom of information in such an insolent way.
EJ feels close to all Hungarian
colleagues facing such a difficult situation in standing up for freedom.
A tough rule of law trial has been
underway against Hungary for two years now, and one can be curious to see how
resolutely Brussels responds to this recurrent provocation. The
corona crisis is a frightening illustration of how quickly common solutions are
thrown overboard in favor of national reflexes.
Nor does the speed of the virus
spread justify the inability of the EU to counteract with common strategy. Here
borders are arbitrarily closed instead of consistently delimiting regional risk
areas. Blame is placed on European neighbours in order to divert attention from
own responsibility for an inadequate health care system. A virus is poisoning
the political climate, instead of seeing it as a stress test for common European
action and drawing the right lessons from fighting the infection. And
fundamental democratic rights are being eroded - under the pretext of fighting
a global pandemic and in the hope that no one will look too closely at such
Once the last virus has been eradicated,
we will need enormous efforts to wrench
the European Union out of its contaminated
Paolo Magagnotti Rotger H:
Kindrmann -- Vassil Sotirov
EJ President EJ Vice-presidents