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Hungary: Government’s stranglehold on media poses serious risks to human rights
by Irene Khan
Special Rapporteur on right to freedom of opinion and expression
Nov. 2021
Hungary’s interventions in the media sector over the past decade could create risks for human rights in the upcoming elections, the UN expert on freedom of opinion and expression said at the end of an official visit to the country.
“There can be no information monopoly in a democracy,” Khan said at the end of her week-long visit.
“By exerting influence over media regulatory bodies, providing substantial state funds to support pro-government media, facilitating the expansion and development of media that follow a pro-government editorial line, and ostracizing media outlets and journalists reporting critically on the government, the authorities have proactively reshaped the media sector and in their efforts to create “balance” have undermined media diversity, pluralism and independence.”
Khan called on the authorities to safeguard editorial freedom and access to diverse sources of information, enhance the independence of regulatory bodies and ensure that State actions, including advertising, does not distort the media market.
“In light of the upcoming parliamentary elections, I call on monitoring and oversight mechanisms to ensure equal, equitable access of election contestants to media, impartial coverage of information, news and opinion about candidates and their programmes, and freedom of the media to report freely and of electorate to seek and receive information from diverse sources.”
The UN expert also called on the OSCE/ODIHR to monitor the state of media freedom in the country in the lead up to the elections, and on European Union and EU Member States to encourage the Hungarian Government to take resolute action to uphold human rights.
“In my meetings, stakeholders have repeatedly stated that the attacks on media freedom that we see are not an isolated phenomenon but worrying signs of a broader pattern of actions through laws, policies, and practices to suppress dissenting voices, discredit civil society, and weaken human rights protection.”
Expressing serious concerns at reports of recurring campaigns of hate-speech, harassment, or stigmatisation of journalists and human rights defenders working on the rights of migrants, refugees and LGBTI, the UN expert called on the Government to promote and recognise the important contributions that these individuals make in building a more just and inclusive society.
“I am deeply troubled by the toxic environment deliberately created by political leaders to sow social divisions and hatred,” Khan said.
“I note the repeal of the controversial 2017 NGO Transparency Law, which stigmatised and undermined the work of NGOs, following a decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union. In light of another recent decision of the Court against the so-called ‘Stop Soros’ legislation, I call on the Government to review its approach and revise its policies on civil society organizations which are an essential pillar of democratic society,” Khan added.
“I have also listened to concerns of the academic community at the growing pressure on their institutional independence. Given the risks linked to the privatisation of public universities for the autonomy of the scholars, I urge the authorities to effectively protect academic freedom and respect the rights of professors and students.
“The realisation of freedom of expression requires, on the one hand, strong protection of independent institutions, whether regulatory, judiciary or academic, and on the other hand, commitment by politicians and public officials to promote human rights and nurture open and inclusive debate,” concluded Irene Khan.
During her mission, the Special Rapporteur met with State authorities, as well as civil society organisations, journalists, academics, and individuals fighting gender-based discrimination and violence. The Special Rapporteur will prepare a report on the main findings of her visit, which she will present to the Human Rights Council in June 2022.

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UN experts alarmed by growing use of mercenaries in cyberspace
by UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries
Oct. 2021
UN human rights experts have expressed their alarm at the growing practice of mercenary-related activities in cyberspace, saying that private actors provide a wide range of military and security services in cyberspace, including data collection, intelligence and surveillance.
Going forward, and in order to prevent and mitigate the negative human rights impacts caused by mercenaries and mercenary-related actors in cyberspace, States should refrain from recruiting, using, financing and training them, said Jelena Aparac Chair Rapporteur of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries who presented the report to the General Assembly.
“It is undeniable that cyber-activities have the ability to cause violations both in armed conflicts and in peacetime, and thus that a whole variety of rights are engaged,” she said. “This includes the right to life, economic social rights, freedom of expression, privacy, and the right to self-determination.
“Furthermore, specific groups such as human rights defenders, journalists, LGBTI and migrants, are affected in a differentiated manner by these activities.”
In their report the experts explain that mercenaries, as well as private military and security companies (PMSCs), may be engaged to conduct malicious cyber operations, such as disruption, interference with, degradation or destruction of computer systems or networks and exfiltration of information, that can cause damage remotely and across various jurisdictions and constitutes a threat to the safety and stability of cyberspace.
“The use of private actors poses a particular challenge to accountability for abuses that occur through cyberspace, in particular across different jurisdictions,” the experts said. “Cyber activities complicate determination of responsibility for an attack, but they do not relieve States from their obligations under international law.”
“States should prohibit such conduct in domestic law and effectively regulate these activities. For this purpose we call upon States to elaborate the content of an international regulatory framework on PMSCs including when they provide cyber-services and operate in the context of cyberwarfare and insist on the need for a legally binding instrument that governs cyberspace,” they said.

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