September 6th, 2011

Media Council fines TV station for hate speech

The Media Council fined Echo TV Ft 500,000 on Monday after ruling that its programme “Világ-panoráma” was in violation of the laws on respecting human dignity and banning hate speech.

Presenter Ferenc Szaniszló spoke of “Gypsies, Gypsy terrorism” and the “Nazi liberals” who encourage them, and whose single goal is to “inflict parasitic human-like figures on Hungarians”, in the programme, which aired on February 11, 2011.

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  • Gandi

    Does anyone know if Kertesz Akos in the United States can be convicted for hate speech against Hungarians in the New York based Nepsava? If so, I would like to see him convicted….

    • justasking


      “Does anyone know if Kertesz Akos in the United States can be convicted for hate speech against Hungarians”

      Exactly…if that speech would have had ‘Jew’ or ‘Gypsy’ in it as opposed to Hungarians….shit would have hit the fan big-time and you would never have heard the end of it.


    • Mrozek

      No but L. Simon László of Fidesz hopefully will be warned by the Americans trying to interfere with American freedom of speech. Kertész Ákos has the right to publish whatever he wishes in the USA, does the same thing… also in the good ol’ USA.

      • Viking

        Mrozek says:
        September 7, 2011 at 6:06 am
        American freedom of speech

        Well as long as this “American freedom of speech” just is about inciting hatred towards other people
        Try something like child pornography and suddenly there is no “American freedom of speech”

        • American in Budapest


          The US has the best system when it comes to freedom to expression. It minimizes state interference.

          And yes, inciting hatred is protected speech.

          The sad thing about Europe is how politically correct you have become.

          You really think you have the right to silence people because you don’t agree with their opinions ..

          Very sad, indeed …

          Europe has created the equivalent of petit bourgeois speech – speech is ok as long at it does not offend my sensibilities.

          And despite all this political correctness, Europe has always failed in modern times to integrate large migrations.

  • Farkas László

    All I can say is that the alarms and concerns I raised a while back, about how these “hotlines” and media law could impact THIS webpage, were well founded. That station got “drilled” for hosting language that used to be par for the course around here among posters![Some of the most habitual and flagrant past “violators” wonder why their posts have been deleted lately] It couldn’t last given this legal climate, and Erik was very wise to take corrective and preventative action. It would be taking false hope and solace to assume that they can’t and won’t do such a thing to a webowner. What’s to stop them? They announced a hotline for offensive webpage material a few months back didn’t they? Sometimes one warning from some low level functionary like “Annamaria Szalai”, is all you get!

    If it’s any comfort to this TV station, I’d have to say that they got off lightly, given what fines and suspensions the Media Law allows for. (The fine in this case amounts to about 1,800 Euros) With this the media community in Hungary is nonetheless put on notice. The next party they decide to make an example of may not get off so “lightly”! There is enough statutory authority in the law for them to fine and suspend most outlets right out of existence. In this case, the station committed a “PC” violation under Article 24 of the law, but there are a lot of other provisions they can hang you on. One station got hit for reporting too high a percentage of newstime to “crime stories! There is also a LOT of language pertaining to minors and the depiction of alcohol, which the “council” has yet to enforce. A determination by the media council may not be the end of one’s troubles either; most Article 24 violations are also sanctioned under other Hungarian and EU law- which can result in criminal proceedings.

    Some may persist in believing that this is an overblown concern. One is always free to to set up their own website in Hungary and put it all to the test. If however you “lose” at this game of “chicken”* with the Hungarian govt, you will end up sadder, wiser and definitely poorer!

    There is no other way to eliminate this jeopardy except to greatly revise or even repeal this law. As it stands, it could turn out to be a journalist’s worst case scenario- instead of reporting news stories, you BECOME the news story!

    (*) An dangerous and illegal form of daredevil street racing, where two cars barrel at each other; the first to move out of the way is the “coward” and “loser”. To do this with a govt, is like a kiddie tricycle vs a large truck!

    • American in Budapest

      You don’t need to host your web site in Hungary. Host in a country which has strong freedom of expression protections.

      In the US websites can be totally anonymous too. The Hungarian authorities could not even determine the owners o the web site.

  • Tengero uses a simple format which has, ostensibly, enjoyed some success over the years. An article is posted and commentators are allowed to “air” their views; within reason of course.
    The racist hate-mongers’ posts get weeded out and we now very seldom hear from our ultra right wing, friends!?
    As for the alternative site idea…well, erm, no fear of that because we band of brothers and sisters hereabout would prefer to blow hot air that carries as much weight as a bag of chicken feathers floating in the deep, blue yonder!
    All credit to Erik D’Amato for putting his money where his mouth is and, at times, risking his own reputation and safety in order that we can have a ‘voice’ in this land were freedom of speech is now threatened!

  • Farkas László

    Dear Gandi,

    There IS a way to find out! Call the “hotline”!

  • olga

    @ Farkas Laszlo

    I am not sure what “hotline” you had in mind in the US where hate speech is alive and well because prohibiting hate speech is unconstitutional in the United States

    BTW, I read that article and it does not even come close to meeting the critirea for any hate speech laws that I am aware of, – While I personally found it an offensive article “hate speech” it ain’t.

    Shame that American in BP does not speak Hungarian, because he could keep it on his dining room table covered with a Hungarian tablecloth and read it over and over with each meal.

    • justasking


      Well, he did say he was taking Hungarian lessons.

      Hey, maybe when he finishes them, and he’s comfortable talking and reading in pigeon Hungarian…we could send him a Hungarian themed/decorated picture frame and he could put the article in that.

      Worth consideration…no?

      As for you assessment’s on the article by Akos…I disagree.

  • Gandi

    Kertesz still “hates” Hungarians, personally for me, it is “hate” speech

  • Farkas László

    Hi Olga,

    My take on the question was that it was asking if the words of a foreign correspondent employed by a Hungarian paper are actionable in Hungary under this law. That IS an interesting question, from a legal standpoint! Gandi can correct me if I misunderstood. The other interesting point his question raises is: can slander of Hungary itself be an actionable Article 24 violation, just as if it were directed against some other identity group? It’s all up to the Media council to “figure” these things out!

  • Joey

    Slander or libel or so-called ‘hate speech’ should have to be proven in a court of law.
    These quasi-kangaroo courts in the shape of the Media council, or whatever, as lickspittles of a rabid government must be consigned to the dustbin of history, immediately.
    The policing of these contentious issues is usually biased and we cannot expect a level playing field in terms of the rampant and unfair political correctness so often on display in modern times.

  • olga

    @ Farkas Laszlo

    My understanding is that hate speech has to do with ” publicly stirring up or inciting hatred against an identifiable group based on colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.” (partial cut and paste from our legislation)

    Thus, while I found Kertesz’ writing very offenisve, I don’t see how it is going to incite hatred against Hungarians; it’s not all that unusual for someone bad mouthing his/her own people but “hate speech” needs to involve a possible risk to those maligned.

    For example, some of the garbage that drunk Jan Slota spewed against Hungarians in Slovakia would be a different matter because Hungarians are a minority in that country and his words could have an impact on their lives.

    • justasking


      Seriously here, explain to me what the difference is between ‘hate speech’, ‘hateful speech’, and ‘freedom of speech’. Hate VS disgust VS resentment….

      Isn’t it really just semantics and the flavour of the month?

    • American in Budapest


      The whole idea of hate speech is way too subjective to subject to government control. And the very fact that is so subjective chills legitimate speech.

      Let me remind the US has proven a far more successful place for immigrants than countries that have hate speech laws.

      Of all ethnic groups in America, Chinese Americans have the highest per capita income and educational attainment followed by Jewish Americans.

  • Farkas László

    Hi Olga,

    The combination of a hotline, tied to a council that has it’s very own statute which it can interpret itself, means that anything offensive to anybody is cause for complaint. All it takes is one person making a call! It then remains to be seen how the council deals with these complaints. How “hate speech” has been defined in other countries becomes irrelevant to a degree, as the council is a newly minted “blank page”, free to create a new body of law in Hungary. The media statute does not require them to be bound by previous rulings by other courts and administrative bodies. They’ve only issued a few rulings so far in their 9 month long existence, and history and their future lies before them!

    Any characterisations offensive to Jews and the Roma for example are almost certainly going to bring hotline complaints, if they haven’t already. It then remains for the council to decide if Article 24 applies. Should the council entertain these complaints, it will “open the floodgates”. Anything slanderous or insulting to any identity group becomes fair game. I think it inevitable that Hungarian nationalists will also complain under this law eventually whenever they see anything published that makes negative characterisations of Hungary and the Hungarians; whether the council will rule their way remains to be seen.

    Finally, a council that is funded to the equivalent of 300 million US, per year, is likely to have a long institutional life and may outlast us all! That leaves the possibility that a media council of the future, may overrule the media council of today! Again the statute does not require them to follow precedent, including their own! This could lead to the attitude “if we didn’t succede in getting a favorable ruling, we’ll just try,try again!”

  • Farkas László

    Hi ladies!

    I came up with a response much earlier today, but it’s held up in moderation. (certain names and words can trigger a delay) For the time being, I just want to say that under this law, we can pretty much put our brains on “autopilot” when it comes deciding what does or does not constitute “hate speech” in Hungary! The council will decide those things! It’s up to them! Some upset person complains (and there are many grounds for complaint under this law), calls them up and waits to see if there will be an eventual ruling.

    This statute is byzantine/gothic to an incredible degree! It has something for everybody, and at the same time can be used against most anybody! Left, right and middle can complain under it, and members of the left, right and middle might be called to the carpet under it. I don’t know if such a thing was necessarily by design- perhaps it just reflects the naturally convoluted way the legislators think. Some of the very people who voted for this law, just might turn out to be shocked and surprised by some of the future rulings of their Media Council brainchild! Once created, it just might take on an uncontrolled life of it’s own. “Son of Frankenstein” anybody?

  • American in Budapest


    I adore the 1st Amendment. I deplore hate speech, but I also will fight vigorously to protect the right of anyone to express what you consider hate speech.

    Just remember, at one time, to have expressed doubt in God’s existence would have been grounds for being burned at the stake.

    Politically correctness is a dead end. No one believes in their heart that all cultures are equal.

    Prohibiting hate speech does not make people more tolerant. It simply breeds resentment that they are being treated as second class citizens to political considerations.

  • Rocinante

    Freedom of speech, and independence of thought, culture and traditions of sovereign nations, stymied…the world is becoming one big melting pot of uniformity.
    In the West we have always looked to classical antiquity for inspiration as demonstrated through that wonderful period we call the Renaissance.
    Science and technology are the big hitters that drive the world now at break-neck speed and it seems we have no time to reflect on anything that is wholesome and worthwhile.
    Philosophers were very important in the past and used to influence governments across the world with their wise and considered opinions and, as a consequence, politicians themselves were able to take, and make, better decisions in the wider public interest.
    Nowadays, some blockhead arrives on the scene with the latest flavor of the month fad which usually results in catastrophe because the ideas are unsound and have not been thought through properly.
    Squaring the circle! Many have been hellbent on doing this since time began. The European Union and the hardcore federalists rode this particular train which has now been derailed based on the simple fact that, we are not all the same. As the hard-working German taxpayers are now finding out courtesy of the fantastical, and corrupt, world of the Greeks.

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