September 12, 2018

MEPs trigger Article 7 to defend democracy and press freedom in Hungary

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban looks on during a debate concerning Hungary's situation as part of a plenary session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France on September 11, 2018/ AFP
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) welcomes today’s vote by the European Parliament to trigger Article 7 of the European Union treaty in a bid to curb the Hungarian prime minister’s increasingly authoritarian tendencies and ensure respect for the rule of law, democracy, human rights and press freedom.

It was the first time in EU history that the required two-thirds of MEPs voted in favour of using this exceptional mechanism, under which a member state can, after a long and complicated procedure, be stripped of its vote in the European Council for posing a grave threat to the EU’s fundamental common values.



We welcome this unprecedented vote by the European Parliament, which shows that MEPs are determined to defend the European democratic model,” said Julie Majerczak, RSF’s representative in Brussels.


There was an urgent need for the European Union to decide to act and to clearly show the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, that he must stop riding roughshod over the separation of powers, judicial independence and press freedom and stop attacking organizations that defend human rights.”


Violations of press freedom and media pluralism were among the 12 major concerns cited in the resolution approved by the European Parliament. The situation in Hungary is really critical and press freedom is increasingly under threat.


Recent actions by Orbán associates with the aim of gagging the press have continued the dangerous decline in media pluralism. A businessman close to the prime minister seized control of the TV news channel Hir TV at the start of August, just weeks after the weekly Heti Valaszaand the daily Magayar Nemzet were closed.



It was yet another example of a well-established methodin which Orbán allies buy up media companies and reorient their editorial policies by means of censorship, dismissals and closures.


A dozen pro-government oligarchs now have dominant positions in most of the Hungarian media, including local dailies, national commercial TV channels, tabloids, news websites and political weeklies, while state radio and TV were turned into Orbán propaganda outlets long ago.


As a result, it is getting harder and harder for Hungary’s journalists to play the role that is essential in any properly-functioning democracy and for its citizens to get access to accurately reported news and information.


It now falls to the European Council, which consists of the heads of state or government of the EU’s 28 member countries, to press ahead with the Article 7 procedure.


RSF’s Majerczak added: “We urge European Union leaders to do their duty to make Viktor Orbán understand that the EU is not just a distributor of subsidies and that European values are not negotiable. If nothing is done, Hungary’s increasing authoritarianism will continue and will allow other countries to take the same road.”


Hungary is ranked

73rd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.