In the last few years, the possibilities for protesting on public issues in Hungary have changed significantly. A number of changes have taken place that have significantly damaged the freedom of expression, the right to strike and the freedom of assembly that are relevant to protest. It is harder for anyone who wants to protest with others, make demands and gather supportive citizens today than it was a few years ago.
We are strengthening our leadership, with a Director of Strategy in addition to the Executive Director and the Director of Programs. Dalma Dojcsák will take over the position of Executive Director from Stefania Kapronczay, who will continue as Director of Strategy, while Máté Szabó will remain as Director of Programs. The change is primarily the result of our new strategy, which is more complex than the previous one: we decided to develop new types of activities as well as strengthen the role of strategic planning for greater impact. In addition, we have been able to continuously expand our team over the past years. In a challenging environment, it is of paramount importance to ensure that we have sufficient capacity for internal processes as well.
After a year-long protest of teachers, students and parents, instead of listening to their demands concerning the education system, the government plans to introduce a comprehensive amendment to the employment status of the educators, called the Status Law. The Status Law would further increase the obligations of teachers, while reducing their freedoms at the same time. The proposal was open for public consultation for 8 days altogether. This short time frame in itself violates the pledge the government made for the EU in exchange for a financial package of about 1.7 billion EUR for educational reform, but is currently jeopardised because of the government’s actions. The Draft Status Law must be withdrawn by the government. The government must call for a real and substantial public consultation before embarking on the inevitable reform of the educational system.
Physical attacks, often by the police, and abusive lawsuits against journalists are on the rise, data protection rules are abused to restrict freedom of information, unchallenged media ownership concentration threatens pluralism, national security used as a pretext for laws that restrict free speech: problems reported in the previous year in most EU countries remain unresolved and in some cases even worsened in 2022, according to the Liberties Media Freedom Report 2023 (Report) published today.
Internet freedom in Hungary continues to decline. Hungary enjoys high levels of overall connectivity and relatively affordable internet access. While there are few overt restrictions on content in Hungary, the government continues to consolidate its control over the telecommunications and media landscape. During the coverage period, the political opposition experienced significant cyberattacks during their primary elections. Additionally, Parliament extended a “state of danger,” akin to a state of emergency that was originally enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The government also blocked state-owned Russian websites in response to a European Council regulation following the invasion. Additionally, the government admitted to purchasing spyware technology, which was allegedly used to target journalists and lawyers.
The national teachers' strikes, which started in March this year, have gained new momentum since the start of the school year. But why is strike the most crucial demand for teachers if some are still striking now? And how is civil disobedience different? We've rounded up the most important things to know about strikes, why different rules apply to teachers, and why unions say the government has made it impossible to strike in education.