In its report on human rights practices of nearly 200 countries in 2011, the US Department of State has highlighted discrimination against the Roma minority and “violent right-wing extremism” as the biggest human rights problems in Hungary.
Concerning the situation of the Roma community, the report, released on Thursday, said that “discrimination against Roma exacerbated their already limited access to education, employment, health care, and social services” in 2011.
According to the report, expressions of far-right extremism have become more frequent, including “public campaigns by paramilitaries to intimidate and incite hatred against Roma and other minorities”.
On the subject of Hungary’s media legislation, the report said that “the government began implementing a new law that restricts media freedom by increasing government influence over the media in general”.
Hungary’s new constitution and cardinal laws passed last year “gave rise to concerns that the new legislation could undermine the country’s democratic institutions by removing key checks and balances”, the document said.
The report was also critical about police practices, such as using “excessive force against suspects, particularly Roma”, legislation which authors of the study saw as ones that “caused concerns over the broad powers of the media regulatory authority, which could encourage self-censorship”, as well as “government corruption; questionable layoffs of state media employees; societal violence against women and children; sexual harassment of women; anti-Semitism; trafficking in persons; and the adoption of laws that weakened the labor rights of civil servants”.
Hungary rejects several statements in the human rights chapter of the US Department of State’s country report for 2011 because there is no discrimination in Hungary against the Roma, Hungary’s state secretary for government communications told MTI by phone in New York late on Thursday.
Zoltan Kovacs said, however, that Hungary would respect conclusions of the report. He added that the Hungarian government had maintained continuous dialogue about the issues raised in the document.
“Our view is that there is no discrimination against the Roma in Hungary, Kovacs said.
The report quoted isolated negative examples, whereas the Hungarian government supports the social inclusion of the Roma with systematic and comprehensive programmes, for instance to promote employment for the community.
European justice commissioner Viviane Reding recently expressed her appreciation of Hungary which initated during its European Union presidency the coordination of Roma strategies by member countries, Kovacs said.
The Hungarian government protects minority rights and resolutely stands up against extremists, Kovacs said. He added that Hungary had amended regulations on hate speech and uniformed marches.