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19th Jan 2020

Court rules Jobbik cannot be called 'far-right'

  • Jobbik is the second largest political force in Hungary (Photo: Leigh Phillips)

Jobbik, Hungary's far-right party cannot be deemed "far-right" by newscasters, according to a decision on Monday (3 June) by the country's highest court.

Hungary's supreme court said that by referring to Jobbik as a "parliamentary far-right party" in a newscast in 2012, the Hungarian commercial television channel ATV breached the law because it expressed an opinion.

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Jobbik said ATV violated the statutory ban on opinionated news commentary.

Hungary's media regulatory bodies, the Media Authority and the Media Council sided with Jobbik, and ATV went to court, where it won in a lower court.

But the supreme court overturned the earlier ruling.

The court said that since Jobbik does not consider itself an extreme-right party, referring to it as "far-right" expresses an opinion, and leaves a negative impression with the viewer.

This rule only applies to TV and radio broadcasting as they are obliged to provide impartial news for a certain period of airtime.

ATV argued that "parliamentary far-right" is not an opinion, but a well-known fact, and said it is considering filing a constitutional complaint.

This is not the first time Jobbik has attacked adjectives associated with itself.

The party in 2012 sued Laszlo Karsai, a renowned historian, because he said – also on ATV – that Jobbik is a neo-nazi party.

The court first ruled in favour of Jobbik saying Karsai damaged the party's reputation. The historian appealed and a higher court overruled the decision, dismissing Jobbik's complaint, saying the court is not in a position to make such historical judgements.

Jobbik's recent strategy to move towards the political centre paid off in April's general election when it got 21 percent of the vote.

The May EU election saw it send three representatives to the European Parliament. It is currently the second strongest party in Hungary behind the ruling centre-right Fidesz party.

While it advocates a stronger relationship with Russia, during the EU election campaign it refrained from previous calls to exit the EU or a referendum on membership.

However despite efforts to clean up its image at home, it still has a no-go reputation abroad.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has ruled out forming a group with Jobbik in the European Parliament, considering it too extreme.

Eszter Zalan is a journalist at a Hungarian daily, Nepszabadsag.

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