Miércoles, 28 de febrero, 2024

The 2021 Propaganda Law which curtails discussions and portrayals of LGBTI people in schools and in the media and has had a far-reaching impact on LGBTI individuals and groups in Hungary, entrenching negative stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes and restricting the right to freedom of expression, said Amnesty International in a report published today.

From freedom to censorship: Consequences of the Hungarian Propaganda Law, reveals how, in the space of three years, the law has had a pervasive chilling effect within the media, advertising, and publishing industries, with effects felt widely among LGBTI+ groups and individuals.

“The Propaganda Law has created a cloud of fear and limited access to information, particularly for young people. Fear from sanctions have resulted in a chilling effect that is preventing people from imparting, seeking and receiving information about sexual orientation and gender identity. The Propaganda Law has also contributed to negative stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes towards LGBTI people,” said Amnesty International Hungary’s LGBTI officer, Eszter Mihály.

“Over the last decade, the Hungarian government and the state-backed media have conducted a campaign against LGBTI rights using stigmatizing rhetoric and targeting those in civil society who stand up for equality.”

Since the adoption of the law essential information and other LGBTI-related content has become harder to access, particularly for children and young people.

The law’s vaguely worded prohibition on the “depiction and promotion” of “diverse gender identities and sexual orientations” in some forms of public communications, including in public education, media, advertisements, and some commercial activities, has resulted in fear in those working in these fields. Fear of legal proceedings and potential smear campaigns in the government-aligned media, have prevented many individuals and organizations from engaging in such conversations and disseminating information on these matters.

The report finds that some media service providers and bookshops in Hungary are exercising self-censorship to avoid legal sanctions, and that authors, creative agencies and civil society organizations are struggling to navigate the vague provisions in the law. Whilst the law was not initially widely enforced, this shifted in early 2023 with authorities increasingly launching proceedings against bookshops selling books featuring LGBTI characters.

Professionals interviewed by Amnesty International expressed their concern about how the law is being interpretated by the authorities and uncertainty regarding how to modify their operations to avoid fines and other penalties. Krisztián Nyáry author and Creative Director of Líra Ltd told Amnesty International: “It would be possible to write a warning on all children’s books that it is for the parents, and everything would remain the same. But these books must also be wrapped in foil and cannot be sold near schools at all. As a result, even law-abiding bookshops and publishers are left in limbo, and facing penalties.”

The law has also meant that the broadcast of television programmes and films featuring LGBTI characters is only permitted post-watershed. As a result, representatives from media outlets have had to adapt their programming and streaming content to avoid potential penalties.

Péter Kolosi, head of content for the commercial TV channel RTL, told Amnesty International how the channel had shifted certain programmes to later time slots and would not even consider broadcasting certain types of content. Writers and programme-makers had had to made changes to their work in order to ensure that it complied with the law. He told Amnesty International: “This law is unacceptable, discriminatory and I think that it actually introduced censorship – a new kind of censorship – in the media.”


The Propaganda Law has resulted in legal action taken against some content providers and book sellers. One bookshop chain faced fines for stocking age-appropriate books featuring same-sex couples in the children’s section, and another bookshop was fined for a displaying a book portraying a transgender character and not flagging it was a book for adults.


Authors have had to reclassify their works from youth literature to the category of adults. One author told Amnesty International how they also faced increasing threats and harassment on social media simply for writing about LGBTI characters.


Author Dóra Papp described to Amnesty International how she was threatened on social media in a way that she had not experienced before the passing of the law, with one person threatening to spit on her at a book signing. She told Amnesty International: “It has taken a toll on me. After so many years of signings when it was a pleasure to meet readers, fear was planted in me, because I didn’t know how seriously to take the threat.” She also describes how the chilling affect has impacted new writers. “They have told me of their fear and that their either do not dare to finish the book they are working on or will not dare to publish their writing in Hungary.


Amnesty International’s findings indicate that the law is unduly restricting people’s right to freedom of expression, including children’s right to access information, in a manner that is neither provided by law, nor necessary or proportionate. It has no legitimate aim and is therefore inconsistent with international human rights law and standards.


“The Propaganda Law is unlawful and has had far-reaching negative impacts on people’s right to freedom of expression through widespread restrictions, including on media, advertising, and publishing industries,” said Eszter Mihály.


“This law has no place in Hungary, and it is contributing to increased stigmatization and negative stereotyping of LGBTI people. It must be immediately repealed, and action taken to unpick the harm that it has done.”