The European Humanist Federation, along with 80 MEPs and civil society groups, has signed an open letter to the European Commission and the European Council, urging them to condemn the latest developments in Hungary and take decisive action.
On 31 March, Hungary adopted a law giving the government wide and indefinite powers to rule by decree. This law also creates new offences heavily punishing persons who claim or spread a falsehood or a “distorted truth” in relation to the emergency, thus seriously limiting freedom of speech and creating a chilling effect on independent media.
The EHF is committed to human rights, the rule of law and democracy. The main source of inspiration for our viewpoints and actions are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its fundamental values: freedom, equality, solidarity and human dignity.
The measures adopted in Hungary are in clear breach of these fundamental principles. This law effectively leads Hungary further away from a democracy and into an authoritarian regime, in obvious contradiction to the aims and values of the European Union, of which it is a member.
It is crucial to react timely to such moves. Humanism cannot flourish under an authoritarian regime. Human beings can only thrive in societies where fundamental rights and freedoms are guaranteed.
Liberty is an inherent part of human dignity. Freedom of speech, and thus a free press, is a cornerstone of an open society, as it is indispensable to ensure the free exchange of ideas and information necessary to social progress. The right to express and receive a diversity of points of view and the lack of fear of retribution from the State are essential to a humane society. Human beings can give meaning and shape to their own lives only in the framework of a democratic government defending and promoting fundamental rights.
Read the letter in full here.
Open letter: the EU must not sit idly by while a Member State’s democracy is in jeopardy
15 April, 2020
The following letter, signed by 80 MEPs and civil society groups, was sent to the presidents of the European Commission and Council:
Dear President von der Leyen,
Dear President Michel,
The coronavirus pandemic represents an urgent global challenge. Governments and EU institutions must act decisively to control its spread, protect citizens, and limit economic damage in the European Union.
However, the crisis must not serve as a smokescreen for anti-democratic activities and the stifling of active civil society, that can exacerbate corruption and undermine Goal 16 of the SDGs: ‘Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.’
Exceptional times, of course, demand exceptional measures and it may be legitimate for governments to temporarily use extraordinary powers to manage the situation. Nevertheless, even in a crisis, these measures must be time-limited and proportionate. We cannot allow unscrupulous political actors to use the current climate as a pretext for dismantling democracy and undermining the rule of law.
The recent actions of Viktor Orbán’s government in Hungary are a flagrant attack on the cornerstones of the rule of law and the values of the Union. Last week, the government overrode the objections of the opposition and civil society, granting the Prime Minister indefinite powers to rule by decree. This law has also mandated draconian prison sentences for spreading ‘misinformation’ which could be used to stifle independent journalism.
These measures have a chilling effect on free speech and anticipate the potential to suffocate those remaining elements of the checks and balances system in Hungary which survived the past ten years of almost uninterrupted democratic backsliding resulting from Viktor Orbán’s rule.
The European Union must not sit idly by while a Member State’s democracy is in jeopardy.
We also remind you that previous actions of the European Union failed to prevent the Hungarian government from going along a path that leads to the disruption of democratic institutions, marginalising of civil society, and the undermining of the rule of law. Therefore, we call on the European Commission and the Council to more strictly control the spending of EU funds and to enhance current measures that prevent the creation of an illiberal system within our Union.
We therefore urge you to unequivocally condemn the Hungarian government’s misuse of the coronavirus crisis to erode democratic values. The European Commission and the Council must also take swift and decisive actions to address these threats to the rule of law being carried out under the guise of emergency powers.
|Transparency International EU
Transparency International Hungary
Africa Solidarity Centre Ireland
AMARC Europe: World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters
Association of European Journalists
Campaign for Freedom of Information Scotland
Citizens Network Watchdog Poland
Civil Society Europe
Corporate Europe Observatory
Danes je nov dan / Today is a new day
The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom
European Federation of Journalists
European Humanist Federation
European Movement International
European Youth Forum
Staffan Dahllöf (Freelance reporter)
Antonis Ventouris (Freelance)
Free Press Unlimited
Fundacja Miasto Obywatelskie Lubartów
Global Forum for Media Development
The Good Lobby
Human Rights Watch
Hungarian Civil Liberties Union
Hungarian Europe Society
Hungarian Helsinki Committee
International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, Europe
International Press Institute
JEF Europe (Young European Federalists)
Lawyers for Human Rights
Vigjilenca Abazi (of Maastricht University)
Mertek Media Monitor
Netherlands Helsinki Committee
Open Society European Policy Institute
Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa
The Oslo Center
Professor Laurent Pech (of Middlesex University)
Poets, Essayists and Novelists International
Reporters Without Borders
Solidar and Solidar Foundation