Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled to learn that the Hungarian police have obstructed foreign media coverage of the refugee crisis on the border between Hungary and Serbia and, in particular, that they have on three occasions in the past week used force against foreign journalists.
RSF condemns these unacceptable violations of media freedom and calls on the Hungarian authorities to guarantee the safety of media personnel. It also voices concern about the medical consequences for the journalists who were beaten and demands that those responsible are punished.
“These incidents are intolerable,” Reporters Without Borders editor-in-chief Virginie Dangles said. “The Hungarian authorities must allow journalists to operate on the ground and they must prevent the police from engaging in threats and violence of this kind.
“This disgraceful police behaviour is consistent with Hungary’s frequent violations of media freedom, especially since the adoption of draconian media laws in 2010 that have been condemned by Hungarian civil society and by international and inter-governmental organizations.”
In a statement issued yesterday, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) urged Prime Minister Viktor Orban to ensure the safety of journalists covering the refugee crisis.
The OSCE reported that Hungarian police attacked a Radio Television of Serbia crew consisting of cameraman Vladan Hadzi Mijailovic, sound engineer Miroslav Djurasinovic and reporter Jovana Djurovic at the Horgos border crossing between Hungary and Serbia on 16 September, injuring Djurovic’s hand
Although the crew had identified themselves as journalists, they were attacked while filming between a police cordon and a group of refugees.
The OSCE said Jacek Tacik, a journalist with Poland’s public broadcaster TVP, was also beaten by the police on 16 September. After Hungarian doctors treated him for head injuries, he was briefly arrested for illegally crossing the border and, according to the Hungarian authorities, attacking a police officer.
This incident took place when Tacik and other journalists were with a crowd of refugees who were being pushed back by the police.
According to the OSCE, Associated Press cameraman Luca Muzi also reported that Hungarian police briefly detained him near the border town of Roszke on 12 September and made him delete the photos he had taken of a police dog threatening a Syrian refugee.
Muzi said the police did not allow him to call his colleagues. The Hungarian authorities dispute his account of the incident.
In yesterday’s statement, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic called on the Hungarian prime minister to “instruct law enforcement to respect the rights of journalists to report on issues of public interest and ensure their safety.”
Democratic standards have declined steadily in Hungary since Viktor Orban’s party, Fidesz, won the 2010 elections. Hungary is now ranked 65th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index after falling 46 places in just four years.