Magyar Jeti Zrt v Hungary (third-party intervention, pending)

Facts

In September 2013, a group of football fans on their way from Hungary to Romania stopped at an elementary school in Hungary which had predominantly Roma pupils. They made racist remarks, waved flags, and one of them allegedly urinated on the building. The head of the local Roma-minority self-government gave a video interview to a Romani media outlet the same day, associating the football fans with the Hungarian political party Jobbik, which, itself, has often been associated with anti-Roma prejudice. The next day, the website www.444.hu published an article about the event with a link to the video of the interview on Youtube. Jobbik subsequently sued the website’s owner (and others, including the mayor) for violating its reputation by linking to the video which Jobbik claimed contained statements damaging to its reputation. Jobbik won the case, which the website owner unsuccessfully appealed all the way to Hungary’s Supreme Court.

The ERRC’s Third-Party Intervention

The ERRC made two points. The first was that when minorities targeted by hate crimes or hate speech associate those acts with the views of particular politicians or political parties, they are engaging in expression for which Article 10 provides a high level of protection. The ERRC asked the Court to consider the situation of Roma, Europe’s largest minority which, as the Court has frequently recognised, requires special protection under the Convention. In addition to living poorer, shorter lives with fewer opportunities, Roma are exposed to high rates of hate crimes and hate speech as well as to comments by politicians and political parties blaming them for a wide range of social problems. The ERRC asserted that it was natural for many Roma to express a link between violent or otherwise extreme manifestations of anti-Gypsyism on the one hand and politicians and political parties that cast their political arguments in racialised terms on the other. The ERRC relied on UN and Council of Europe sources that likewise noted the important role politicians play in creating an environment in which racial hatred – including hate crimes – can flourish. Restricting Roma from expressing such a link was, in itself, whether conscious or not, a manifestation of anti-Gypsyism; it silences Roma and so perpetuates historical patterns of exclusion. The ERRC’s second point was that exposing online publishers to liability for the content of linked material will unduly burden civil society’s and racial minorities’ efforts to combat racism. The ERRC highlighted its own “rapid response” work in providing a rights-based commentary, through blogs, press releases, Facebook posts, and Twitter, on unfolding events concerning violations of Roma rights. That work was the ERRC’s contribution to the online fight against anti-Gypsyism. The ERRC relied extensively on the use of electronic links to materials published online by others. If the ERRC had to carry out its online work under the threat of a lawsuit concerning those links, its rapid-response operation would have to change significantly, with a considerable chilling effect. The ERRC highlighted that although it operated across Europe, it was a registered foundation in Hungary.

The Court’s statement of facts can be found here.

The ERRC’s third-party intervention can be found here.

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