Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (31 March) on Hungary’s far-reaching emergency measures to combat the Covid19 pandemic:
Even in this extraordinarily difficult situation, in which all EU member states now find themselves, it is particularly important to respect proportionality.
Especially in exceptional situations it is tremendously important for parliament, the media and civil society to engage in democratic debate, in order to retain the people’s trust in the constitutional state. Freedom of the media and freedom of opinion are an inherent part of this.
It is therefore vital that we all carefully weigh our measures and can review them time and again. Safeguarding the human rights of Europe’s citizens in accordance with our basic democratic tenets is the standard we should always hold ourselves to.
On 30 March 2020 the Hungarian parliament passed an emergency law which permits government by decree without this being clearly limited to the duration of the emergency situation. Moreover, it makes it a criminal offence to hinder measures to contain epidemic diseases and to spread false information or news that distorts the truth. The bill was initially rejected by the opposition, whose demands included a time limit and the removal of a passage about media misinformation. When put to a vote on 30 March, 137 members of parliament from the government benches voted for the law, 53 opposition MPs voted against it. There were no abstentions. The required twothirds majority was thus obtained.