Journalist Lili Bayer Verbally Attacked by Government Spokesperson

Update: 31 Jan 2019 State replied
Year 03 Oct 2017 Country Hungary Category Harassment and intimidation of journalists Source of threat State Partner EFJ/IFJ , AEJ , Index Alert level Level 2
03 Oct 2017 Hungary Harassment and intimidation of journalists State EFJ/IFJ , AEJ , Index Level 2

On 28 September 2017, Hungarian government spokesperson Zoltán Kovács verbally attacked Politico correspondent in Hungary Lili Bayer. Kovács first insinuated in a Twitter post that Bayer is on drugs. He further elaborated by claiming on the same day, in an interview with ATV private channel, that “calling someone an antisemite or a Nazi is a strong drug, and the lady really struggles to get off it […] She is a drug addict of calling people antisemites and Nazis.” He was replying to Bayer's tweet drawing a parallel between the 1920's first Hungarian anti-Jewish measures and the state-funded campaign against American billionaire of Hungarian origin George Soros. He went on by saying that Lili Bayer is not a journalist but a political activist serving Soros' interests: “I already spoke about this with the editor-in-chief of Politico, which is one of the papers where the lady works, I already put this forward, if I remember correctly, sometime at the beginning of the year, and one thing is for sure, that political activists should not hide behind a journalist badge. And what’s also for sure is that Lili Bayer from now on, for us, I think, is not a journalist.” He added that he will no longer work with her. This statement follows on from the publication of a list of eight journalists described as "propagandists" on the Hungarian internet portal 888.hu . Lili Bayer was one of the journalists publicly accused of serving the interests of George Soros. Government spokesperson Kovács also criticized Bayer by name in March and July blog posts, while pro-government media outlets attacked her by name in eleven articles since February 2017.

Updates

17 Dec 2018 : On 12 December 2018, Hungarian government spokesperson Zoltán Kovács again denigrated Lili Bayer on Twitter, questioning whether Politico should be employing her as a journalist. In a tweet addressed to Politico Europe's political editor, Ryan Heath, Kovács wrote: "@politico is entitled to pay journalists, not political activists; regardless geographic location I do not consider @liliebayer a journalist. Please consider if she’s worth the money." Heath dismissed Kovács's tweet with one of his own: "It's not about who you consider a journalist. The EU institutions & POLITICO consider @liliebayer a journalist. Any non-Fidesz member who's met her agrees. And the point of a free press debate is that as a public figure, you occasionally accept questions from such people." Bayer was Politico's Hungary correspondent until April 2018, when she transferred to the outlet's Brussels office.

State replies

31 Jan 2019 : Reply from the Hungarian authorities (information from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade)

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20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Mehmet Altan’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Altan’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Altan’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.

20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Şahin Alpay’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Alpay’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments) of the Convention, the Court held that it was incumbent on the respondent State to ensure the termination of Mr Alpay’s pre-tria detention at the earliest possible date. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Alpay’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.
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