Secular Hungary

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Two tier freedom to religion

Four Christian MPs have introduced a new bill on religious communities last Friday. The bill, which is to be a can be found here. The main points and problems:
- Freedom of religion is conceived exclusively as freedom to religion. The MPs seem to believe that choosing not to be religious equals not using one’s right to religious freedom. Also, the law neither stipulates the right not to disclose one’s religion nor the right not to participate in any religious activity. The bill does not forbid that e.g. a Catholic pupil attending a Jewish school is forced to participate in Jewish religious activities or vice versa, as long as s/he is free to pursue Catholic activities. Also, an institution could require all their staff to attend a religious service.
The principle of state-church separation is rather interpreted to mean that the state does not interfere in church issues (besides paying and granting prerogatives, of course), than as the state’s duty to religious neutrality.
- The bill ensures special protection to religious persons (regarding legal prosecution) as well as to sacral places, activities and symbols. This may pose problems regarding the freedom of speech, as criticism, satire and artworks may be limited in order to enforce this protection. Freedom of speech may also be limited if churches are to be protected by not allowing demonstrations (as happened in Spain).
- It becomes harder to register a religious community as church. 20 years of operation and 1000 adherents have to be presented, as well as a description of the teachings and rituals. To qualify, teaching must provide an overall world view and be directed towards something supernatural. According to the law, the state may not examine the teachings of any religion (the law retains the text form the former law of 1990), but the court will set up an experts’ committee to decide whether a denomination applying for church status really is one. According to the lawmakers, this means no limitation on the freedom of religion, as religious activities can be pursued also within simple civil organisations. That’s true, but it’s harder to do so if you don’t get all the perks, such as 1% of the income tax (similar to the 8 per mille in Italy), tax exemptions, and if you get only half as much state money for your schools and have no right to push your religious education in state schools.
Though the law stipulates that all churches are equal, some are more equal: 44 denominations are listed which will be re-registered as churches by the minister, while all others (ca. 140) will have to re-apply to keep their status.
- The financial prerogatives remain (of course): not only religious and social activities, but also the sale of religious knick-knack, sports activities, publishing, and selling of any material connected with these activities is not considered for profit. Also the letting of premises qualifies as non profit, if they are at least partly used for religious activities (build a hotel, put a prayer room in it and you don’t have to pay taxes – as in Italy). Taxpayers can offer 1% of their income tax to a church (that’s the “second 1%”, the first goes to any NGO). Tax exemptions will be regulated in a separate law.
- Also in the future, church schools and social institutions of churches will be de facto 100% state financed (while schools and social institutions maintained by non religious NGOs at present receive ca. 50% of their costs from the state). This was the main reason for NGOs running schools or homes to become churches.
- Churches have the right to use special criteria for hiring their staff, in order to maintain their religious identity.
- Churches are not required to disclose information containing private data to state authorities (confession secret). This is understandable (confession), but a bit alarming as to the recent past of the Catholic church.
- The bill gives churches the right to participate in the preparation of new legislation!
- Churches may teach their religion in state schools. The costs will be borne by the state.
- The law requires churches to comply with the constitutional rules. Which probably won’t be enforced, as hardly any church carries out its activities according to constitutional rules, e.g. those stipulating equal treatment…
- There is one positive item: if a church person provides services to a non member, they have to make clear that they are a church representative.
Also, there is another small positive item in the justification attached to the proposed legislation: when referring to the international context, the text mentions Europe’s cultural, religious and humanist past.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Less schools

There’s been a wave of state schools being handed over to churches lately, meaning that many pupils (and their parents) will have to decide whether they are willing to abide by the rules of some church or look for a new school. Read the rest of this entry »

Saturday, 1 January 2011

2011 in Hungary

On new year's eve, the president of Hungary, Mr Pál Schmitt has signed the new media law, which has already received much criticism also internationally.
The main points of criticism are the following:

- First of all, it is unclear what exactly defines as a transgression - or rather, about anything can be one: "Media content may not lend itself to openly or implicitly offend the feelings of persons, nations, communities, national, ethnic, linguistic and other minorities or any majority, or of churches or religious groups, or to exclude them." One can be sued not only for publishing lies but also for hurting anyone's feelings. 
 - The authority supervising all media content may sue on their own initiative, without anyone having complained of being offended.
- The penalties are so high that any online or national offline newspaper may be grounded by fining them. 
-The head of the media authority received legislative power.
The head of the media authority is by the way a Ms Annamária Szalai, who was named for a period of 9 years. In her former life, she edited a soft porn magazine - click here to view some samples.
- The state TV channels' news are all produced at one single place, the National New Agency (Magyar Távirati Iroda, MTI), with no news reporters remaining at the TV stations.
- The state media and their CEO's work are supervised by the above mentioned head of the media authority and a board consisting of 12 representatives appointed for 9 years also. The following institutions may delegate a representative: the catholic church, the reformed (Calvinist) church, the Lutheran church, the Jewish council, the academy of sciences (whose former and present president are notorious for their church subservience), the Hungarian Olympic committee (whose former president, the notoriously submissive Mr Pál Schmitt became president of the state), the rectors' conference, the chamber of commerce (whose head, Mr László Parragh is also notorious for backing Fidesz), the association of mayors (almost exclusively Fidesz), the associations of national minorities, the associations of Hungarians living in the neighboring countries, and associations representing families (I guess this will be the association of big families [Nagycsaládosok Országos Egyesülete] notorious also for their right wingness, including the notion that a woman who does not produce a kid every other year is worth less than nothing).

Parts of the new legislation has been introduced earlier this year, and Ms Szalai's office has already tried to sue the media. First of all the rather small Tilos Rádió, for airing a song by the rapper Ice-T, which is allegedly bad for kids. In their answer, Tilos Rádió pointed out that  1 or 2 kids speaking some English may have heard the song, but it is highly questionable whether their English is good enough to understand the text.

On Facebook, the Group One Million Hungarians for Press Freedom has compiled an international link list, which you find below, but visit their page anyway:!/pages/Egymillioan-a-magyar-sajtoszabadsagert/169854769717975?v=info 

Last update: 2010/12/26 17:18


THE NEW YORK TIMES (2010/12/25)
Hungary Waves Off Criticism Over Media Law

Hungarian Media Law Draws Fire

FINANCIAL TIMES (2010/12/24)
EU presses Hungary on media law

THE AUSTRALIAN (2010/12/24)
Hungary censured over gag law

The demolition of press freedom in Hungary

Germany welcomes EU investigation on new Hungarian media law, urges respect of media freedom

EFJ Media release (2010/12/23)
Journalists Question Hungary’s Leadership of Europe as Media Law Provokes Outrage

Sweeping new media law threatens freedom of expression in Hungary

Hungary and media freedom

COUNCIL OF EUROPE (2010/12/23)
Markku Laukkanen calls for limits on new media authority in Hungary

THE ECONOMIST (2010/12/23)
All eyes on Orbán

EURACTIVE (2010/12/23)
EU speechless over Hungary's contentious media law

DAILY MAIL (2010/12/23)
Hungary gags media and throws its EU presidency into doubt with Communist-style measure

THE TIMES (2010/12/23)
Press Ganged

RAIDIÓ TEILIFÍS ÉIREANN (2010/12/23) Ireland
Hungary criticised over new media control laws

OSCE (2010/12/22)
Hungarian media law further endangers media freedom, says OSCE media freedom representative

Midday press briefing - Hungary media law

Hungary’s media law raises eyebrows and concerns

NASDAQ (2010/12/22)
German Government Closely Watching Hungarian Media Law Changes

Hungary Approves ‘Chilling’ Media Law Over Protests

LYMEC alarmed by Hungary’s media gagging

CNBC (2010/12/21)
Hungary passes contentious new media law

BBC NEWS (2010/12/21)
Hungary to create new media watchdog

DEUTCHE WELLE (2010/12/21)
Hungarian parliament passes controversial law to oversee media,,6362238,00.html

REUTERS (2010/12/21)
Hungary passes law boosting government control of media

NATIONAL POST (2010/12/21) Canada
Hungary’s media law is a direct assault on press freedoms

Hungary Approves Controversial Media Law

EUOBSERVER (2010/12/21)
Hungary leads EU attacks on press freedom, watchdog says

NEWS DAILY (2010/12/21)
Hungary passes law boosting government control of media

European Blog Action against Censorship in Hungary

THE NEW AGE (2010/12/21) South Africa
Hungary''s parliament approves a controversial media bill

EURONEWS (2010/12/20)
Hungary’s new media law branded “heavy-handed”

FINANCIAL TIMES (2010/12/19)
Hungary protesters fight media regulations

FREEDOM HOUSE (2010/12/13)
Proposed Hungarian Media Law Would Threaten Freedom

GUARDIAN (2010/06/25)
Protests at new media law in Hungary

DEUTCHE WELLE (2010/06/23)
Critics say proposed Hungarian media reform stifles press freedom,,5723651,00.html

HÜRRIET (2010/06/20) Turkey
Hungarian journalists oppose new media law


ZEIT (2010/12/24)
Mediengesetz Orbán unbeeindruckt von europäischer Kritik

CICERO (d.n)
Pressezensur in Ungarn. Europas kleiner Lukaschenko.

NACHRICHTEN.DE (2010/12/24) (+41 identische Meldungen von anderen Quellen)
György Konrad vergleicht Ungarn mit Frühphase des NS-Regimes

Konrad beklagt Demokratieverlust in Ungarn durch neues Mediengesetz

AD HOC NEWS (2010/12/24)
Konrad beklagt Demokratieverlust in Ungarn durch neues Mediengesetz

György Konrad vergleicht Ungarn mit NS-Regime

WELT ONLINE (2010/12/24)
György Konrad vergleicht Ungarn mit NS-Regime

ORF (2010/12/24)
„Ein europäisches Gesetz“

SPIEGEL ONLINE (2010/12/24)
Orbán poltert gegen Merkel & Co.,1518,736506,00.html

Ein Aufschrei geht durch Europa

WELT ONLINE (2010/12/23)
Der Führerstaat Ungarn gefährdet die EU

SPIEGEL ONLINE (2010/12/23)
Ungarns Knebelgesetz spaltet Europa,1518,736422,00.html

AUSWARTIGES AMT (2010/12/23)
Staatsminister Werner Hoyer im SWR-Tagesgespräch zur ungarischen Mediengesetzgebung (video)

AUSWARTIGES AMT (2010/12/23)
Ungarische Mediengesetzgebung wirft kein gutes Licht auf die kommende EU-Ratspräsidentschaft

TAGESSCHAU (2010/12/23)
Zunehmende Kritik an ungarischem Mediengesetz (video)

DER STANDARD (2010/12/22)
Schönes neues Orbán-Land

TAZ.DE (2010/12/22)
Auf dem Weg zur Diktatur

ZDF (2010/12/22)
Pressefreiheit auf ungarisch

DIE WELT (2010/12/22)
Berlin warnt Ungarn vor Missachtung der EU-Werte

WELT ONLINE (2010/12/22)
Führerstaat Ungarn

WELT ONLINE (2010/12/22)
EU-Parlamentarier geißeln Ungarns Medienzensur

WELT ONLINE (2010/12/22)
Ungarn – Eine Schande für die Europäische Union

WELT ONLINE (2010/12/22)
"Autoritäre Fäulnis" in Ungarns Mediengesetz

SPIEGEL ONLINE (2010/12/22)
Ungarns Medien-Maulkorb alarmiert die EU,1518,736064,00.html

TAGESSCHAU (2010/12/22)
Merkel warnt Ungarns Regierung

KLEINE ZEITUNG (2010/12/22)
Mediengesetz in Ungarn stößt in Europa auf Kritik

FOCUS (2010/12/22)
EU-Abgeordnete kritisieren neues Mediengesetz

METRONAUT (2010/12/22)
Zensur in Ungarn: China mitten in Europa

DEUTSCHE WELLE (2010/12/22)
Vernichtende Kritik an Ungarns Pressezensur,,6363386,00.html

DEUTSCHE WELLE (2010/12/22)
Merkel warns Hungary to maintain EU values on press freedom,,14730956,00.html

STERN (2010/12/22)
Merkel prangert Ungarns Medienmaulkorb an

ZEIT ONLINE (2010/21/22)
Die Nachrichten werden gleichgeschaltet

JUNGE WELT (2010/12/22)
Medien unter Kontrolle

ONLINE FOCUS (2010/12/22)
Ungarn: Neues Mediengesetz stößt in Europa auf Kritik

Brüssel kritisiert Ungarns Mediengesetz

KURIER (2010/12/22)
Der Führerstaat des Viktor Orban

NETZPOLITIK (2010/12/21)
Hintergründe zum ungarischen Mediengesetz

ZEIT ONLINE (2010/12/21)
Ungarn führt die Zensur ein

ARTE (2010/12/21)
Ungarn: Pressefreiheit adieu? (video)

Scharfe Kritik an Ungarns Regierung

Ungarn führt Sanktionen für Medien ein

SPIEGEL ONLINE (2010/12/21)
Rechtskurs in Budapest: Ungarns Medien-Maulkorb alarmiert die EU,1518,736064,00.html

SPIEGEL ONLINE (2010/12/21)
Ungarischer Presse droht Maulkorb,1518,735895,00.html

TAGESSCHAU (2010/12/21)
Pressefreiheit im EU-Land Ungarn in Gefahr

DER STANDARD (2010/12/21)
Orban bringt Medien auf Kurs

DER STANDARD (2010/12/21)
Ungarn: Grünes Licht für umstrittenes Mediengesetz

HANDELSBLATT (2010/12/21)
Ungarn setzt die Pressefreiheit außer Kraft

EVANGELISCH.DE (2010/12/21)
Heftige Proteste gegen die Mediengleichschaltung in Ungarn

SUEDOSTSCHWEITZ.CH (2010/12/21) Switzerland
Ungarn schränkt mit Gesetz Pressefreiheit ein

KURIER (2010/12/21) Austria
Ungarn: Orbáns Mediengesetz beschlossen

WELT ONLINE (2010/12/21)
In Ungarn entsteht ein skrupelloser Führerstaat

Ungarn führt Zensur ein

DER BUND (2010/12/21)
Katastrophe für Europa

ZDF (2010/12/21)
Scharfe Kritik an Ungarns Mediengesetz (video)

N-TV (2010/12/21)
Ungarn schränkt die Presse ein

TAGES ANZEIGER (2010/12/20)
Ungarns Regierung schafft die Demokratie ab


RADIO SVOBODA (2010/12/25)
Венгрия атаковала свободу слова

OPEN2000 (2010/12/24)
Венгрия ввела цензуру: ее обвиняют в фашизме и обещают «серьезные проблемы»

BALTINFO (2010/12/22)
Оппозиция Венгрии призывает президента не принимать закон о СМИ

RFI (2010/12/14) France
Венгрия голосует за строгий Закон о прессе


GAZETA WYBORCZA (2010/12/21)
Do przyjaciół Węgrów,76842,8848799,Do_przyjaciol_Wegrow.html

Polish editor criticises Hungary’s new media law

VPOLITYCE (2010/12/21)
Wiktor, trudne chwile przed tobą...


EL DIA (2010/12/24)
El Gobierno húngaro asegura que la polémica ley de medios no se modificará

LOS TIEMPOS -- Bolivia (2010/12/22)
Aprueban ley que mata a la libertad de prensa húngara

EL PAIS (2010/12/21)
Criticas internacionales al control total de los medios de prensa en Hungría

EL MUNDO (2010/12/21)
Hungría refuerza el control del Gobierno sobre todos los medios de comunicación

EL MUNDO (2010/12/21)
Hungría aprueba una ley que refuerza el control del Gobierno sobre los medios

DIARIO DE CUBA (2010/12/20)
Hungría aprueba una 'ley mordaza' en el propio corazón de la UE


FRANCE2.FR (2010/12/24)
Hongrie: vers un régime autoritaire?

Bienvenue à la République soviétique de Hongrie!

LE FIGARO (2010/12/21)
En Hongrie, Orban resserre le contrôle des médias

PRESSEUROPE (2010/12/21)
Le gouvernement met la presse en coupe réglée

NOUVELOBS (2010/12/21)
La Hongrie vote une loi renforçant le contrôle des médias

ARTE JOURNAL (2010/12/20)
Hongrie : quelle présidence pour l'Union ?


LE FIGARO (2010/12/21)
En Hongrie, Orban resserre le contrôle des médias

Ungheria: libertà di stampa a rischio Media sotto controllo del governo

ANSA (2010/12/20)
Ungheria: approvata 'legge bavaglio'


LIDOVKY (2010/12/23)
Schwarzenberg: Zákon o médiích v Maďarsku odporuje demokracii

CESKÉ NOVINY (2010/12/23)
Schwarzenberg kritizoval maďarský mediální zákon

Maďarsko podle Orbána nechce měnit sporný mediální zákon

ZPRAVY ROZHLAS (2010/12/21)
Maďarská vláda má kontrolu nad obsahem zpravodajství


PRAVDA (2010/12/24)
Ani nápad, Orbán o zmene mediálneho zákona neuvažuje

PRAVDA (2010/12/21)
Orbán priškripol médiá


ADEVARUL (2010/12/22)
Ungaria a pus pumnul în gura jurnaliştilor


TIMES.SI (2010/12/21)
Sporni zakon: Si skuša madžarska vladajoča stranka podrediti medije?

TIMES.SI (2010/12/21)
Na Madžarskem sprejeli sporni medijski zakon


DVEVNIK (2010/12/22)
Унгария силно затегна държавния контрол над медиите

VESTI.BG (2010/12/22)
В Унгария протестират срещу новия медиен закон

EUROPE.BG (2010/12/21)
Унгария засили контрола върху медиите


BLIC ONLINE (2010/12/24)
Cenzura na mađarski način

OEBS: Ugrožena sloboda medija u Mađarskoj

B92 (2010/12/03)
Nezadovoljni mađarski mediji


H-ALTER.ORG (2010/12/22)
Državni udar na slobodu medija

VIJESTI (2010/12/21)
Mađarska postrožila nadzor nad medijima


BUKA ONLINE (2010/12/22)
Mađarski zakon o medijima - na tragu Berlusconija i Lukašenka


SVT (2010/12/22)
EU-storm mot Ungern efter ny medielag


Orbánnak esze ágában sincs megváltoztatni a médiatörvényt

PARAMETER blog (2010/12/24)
Feljegyzések az utolsó padból

ÚJ SZÓ (2010/12/13)
Mindenható sajtóbíróság


MEDIA CHINESE (2010/12/23)

CHINATIMES (2010/12/23),5246,11050404x132010122300654,00.html



RBC (2010/12/23)
Угорщина загрожує європейським цінностям,- міністр закордонних справ Люксембургу

PROSTIR (?) (2010/12/22)
Суперечливий закон про ЗМІ може поставити під сумнів головування Угорщини в ЄС

24TV (2010/12/21)
Угорщина: парламент ухвалив новий закон про ЗМІ


TOKYO SHINBUN summary (2010/12/25)
EU次期議長国ハンガリー 報道規制強化に内外から猛抗議


HABER7.COM (2010/12/23)
Macaristan'ın medya yasasına Avrupa'dan tepki

NETHABER (2010/12/23)
AB Dönem Başkanlığına hazırlanan Macaristan'da MEDYA YASASI tepki çekti

HÜRRIYET (2010/12/23)
Hungary's EU presidency: What should the Eastern Partnership's future posture be toward the South Caucasus?


AAMULEHTI (2010/12/23)
Unkari lupasi harkita medialain muuttamista ("Magyarország megígérte, hogy megfontolja a médiatörvény módosítását")

Etyj järkyttyi Unkarin uudesta medialaista ("Az EBESZ felháborodott Magyarország új médiatörvényén")

Unkari mukautuu Fideszin ylivaltaan ("Magyarország a FIDESZ túlerejéhez idomul")

INDIA ---------------------------

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Hungarian Lutherans

The weekly HVG has published an article on a research conducted among Hungarian Lutherans. The results were presented by Gergely Prőhle, who is not only a supervisor of the Lutheran church, but also the state secretary responsible for EU relations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The research has been conducted among 1500 adults randomly selected from the church's registers containing a total of around 300 thousand persons (ca. 3% of the total population). According to the findings, 90% of these persons consider their religious affiliation important, and most of them do pay the "church tax", which is collected by the church itself, so it is reasonable to assume that the 300 thousand persons not just happen to be in some register because they were baptised, but who are there due to some affiliation.
Still, Mr Prőhle deplores the secularisation of church members,

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The Sunday fights

As in other European countries and even at EU level, Christian churches are lobbying also in Hungary for a ban on working on Sundays. With a twist.
While banning Sunday work was put on the agenda by the Christian democrats (KDNP), the far right party Jobbik has picked up the issue and introduced yesterday a proposal to ban employers from requiring their employees to work on Sundays. With loopholes, of course.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Religious feeling triumphs

Over the freedom of speech, or course. The new law regulating the media is waiting for the approvel of the president, who will no doubt sign it without delay. Par. 17.2 goes as follows: "Media content may not lend itself to openly or implicitly offend the feelings of persons, nations, communities, national, ethnic, linguistic and other minorities or any majority, or of churches or religious groups, or to exclude them." ("A médiatartalom nem lehet alkalmas személyek, nemzetek, közösségek, nemzeti, etnikai, nyelvi és más kisebbségek vagy bármely többség, továbbá valamely egyház vagy vallási csoport nyílt vagy burkolt megsértésére, kirekesztésére." For the entire text:
I will not discuss the relationship between the freedom of speech and religious feelings -- Freedom House has done that, pointing out how these types of laws can easily be used to silence critics and get rid of anyone you want to. The freedom of religion is a segment of the freedom of conscience and of speech, and without the latter, the former is not possible.
Anyone reading the text carefully will note that the defense of religious feelings is not left to the faithful - not only persons', but also institutions' feelings are protected... (and churches do have the financial means to sue, of course)...

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

A truly loving father

Mr László Tőkés, former bishop of the reformed church and present vice president of the European Parliament for the European People's Party, for Romania and of course for the Hungarian minority of Romania, loves his son Máté very dearly (meanwhile his wife filed for divorce among others because of his extramarital affairs). So much that when a couple of weeks ago the city administration of Oradea imposed a fine of around 700 euros for opening a bar without the neccessary permits, Mr Tőkés took his phone (either in Brussels or in Oradea) and called the local authorities.
The younger Mr Tőkés is also interested in football, being player and head of the club called Partium SC, who plays in the fifth league of Romania (there is no sixth). In their interpretetion, the referees were keeping to discriminate against them, so the father took his EP vice president's stationery and hand wrote a letter to the Romanian Football Federation, telling them that: 'As the father of one of the players of Partium SC I am shocked about the incident at the match against Rév. As vice-president of the European Parliament, being responsible among others about sports affairs I consider the behaviour of the three referees that sealed the fate of the game unacceptable. In the European spirit of fair play I ask you to accept the complaint of the president of the Partium SC ragarding the repetition of the game.'