Update to HUN31724.E of 21 April 1999 on the situation of Jews, including reports of anti-Semitic acts and state protection available to them (April 1999-May 2002) [HUN38967.E]

During a meeting with members of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament in February 2002, Prime Minister Viktor Orban stated that "there is no political anti-Semitism in Hungary and the situation is not worse than in Europe in general" (Nepszabadsag 21 Feb. 2002).

However, according to Istvan Szent-Ivanyi, the chair of the Hungarian Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee and a member of the "liberal opposition," the government promotes anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia and social hatred "for short-term political gains" (Nepszabadsag 17 Aug. 2001). Hungarian Radio, a "public service broadcasting organisation" (CEFTA n.d.), also makes reference to repeated accusations levelled at the government of "implicitly encouraging anti-Semitism" in order to win the support of the "far-right" Hungarian Justice and Life Party (HJLP) for the next parliamentary election (10 Jan. 2002). After an August 2001 meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, Laszlo Kovacs, the chair of the opposition Socialist Party, declared that "anti-Semitism is a problem of [Hungarian] society as a whole, not only of the Jewish community in Hungary, ... [and] special responsibility rests with all Hungarian governments" (RFE/RL 23 Aug. 2001).

In January 2002, more than 5,000 Jewish and non-Jewish persons gathered in front of the parliament to mark the 1945 liberation of Budapest's Jewish ghetto (The Budapest Sun 24 Jan. 2002). Among the attending personalities were Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi, Budapest Mayor Gabor Demszky, Zoltan Pokorni, the chair of Fidesz, the senior member of the coalition government, and Peter Medgyessy, a leader of the opposition Hungarian Socialist Party (ibid.). During the ceremony, Mayor Demszky repeated the municipal authorities' opposition to anti-Semitism and racial intolerance (ibid.). Although no unrest was reported, The Budapest Sun indicates that the authorities took "high-profile security measures" as organizers expected protests from "neo-Nazi" demonstrators (ibid.).

During a January 2002 international conference in Jerusalem where journalists discussed media coverage of Jewish issues and anti-Semitism in the media, Matyas Vince, a journalist who gave a presentation on the situation in Hungary, provided a list of press publications with anti-Semitic views, and audio-visual programmes which had broadcast anti-Semitic statements (Hungarian Radio 7 January 2002). In its 2002 World Report, Human Rights Watch mentions anti-Semitic broadcasts on the state radio without providing any details.

Two sources make reference to Hungarian media which were sentenced for materials inciting hatred against Jews, such as Sunday News (Vasarnapi Ujsag), a radio programme broadcast on Hungarian Radio (TV2 4 July 2001) and Pannon radio station (AFP 27 Oct. 2001).

There are reports that Lorant Hegedues Junior, a HJLP member of parliament (TV2 30 Nov. 2001) and one of 10 Reformed Church bishops who ran for the HJLP in the April 2002 election, was being prosecuted on charges of "inciting hatred" after writing an article where he had used "the phraseology of pre-war pro-Nazi Hungary" (AFP 11 Jan. 2002). According to TV2, a Hungarian satellite channel, Hegedues had called for "the exclusion of Jews from the Hungarian nation" (30 Nov. 2001). The ruling synod of the Reformed Church reportedly condemned the article (AFP 11 Jan. 2002; TV2 30 Nov. 2001). Nepszabadag, a Hungarian daily described as centre-left, independent and close to the Hungarian Socialist Party (2 May 2002), also reports a previous anti-Semitic speech that Hegedues gave in parliament and stresses that the government's response to the speech failed to condemn its racist nature (17 Aug. 2001).

According to Hungarian Radio, the government was expected to introduce an amendment to the Penal Code punishing incitement to racial hatred (12 Oct. 2001). This move came as the public prosecutor reportedly could not initiate investigations into anti-Semitic "manifestations" because of "legal restraints" (ibid.). In September 2001, the chief prosecutor of Hungary upheld a decision rendered by a local chief prosecutor who refused to investigate statements allegedly inciting hatred against Jews by spokesmen for a far-right political party (The Jewish Bulletin Online of Northern California 7 Sept. 2001). The spokesmen had reportedly condemned the purchase by a prominent Jewish businessman of the most popular soccer club in Hungary (ibid.). Nepszabadsag and The Budapest Sun indicated that the deputy chair of the HJLP had denounced the purchase, and noted the lack of their condemnation by the government (17 Aug. 2001; 23 Aug. 2001). Commenting on the chief prosecutor of Hungary's decision, Hungarian Jewish leaders called for additional legislation "to fight racism" (The Jewish Bulletin Online of Northern California 7 Sept. 2001).

According to Miklos Hadas, a sports sociologist, the media, the lack of appropriate legislation, social discontent and strategies of the far-right are responsible for the emergence of racism and anti-Semitism in Hungary's soccer stadiums (Nepszabadsag 2 Aug. 2001). Speaking of soccer fans who make racist statements, the sociologist stated that "it often turns out in connection with anti-Semitic atrocities that the kids who are verbally abusing the Jews are ignorant and have no idea about the fatal crimes the Nazis committed against humanity. They air anti-Jewish ideas only because they want to annoy those they consider to be the representatives of power, including the police, the linesmen and journalists" (ibid.).

According to Agence France Presse, the Orban government "supported" through its policies the Catholic Church, the Reformed Church, the evangelists and the Jews since 1998 (11 Jan. 2002). The Prime Minister stated that his government was also supporting "comprehensive Jewish education," which, he stressed, was a first in Hungarian history (Nepszabadsag 21 Feb. 2002).

In a 4 April 2002 article, The Budapest Sun indicates that several members of parliament who represent the Free Democrats, a centre-left political party, are Jewish.

For information on anti-Semitism in Hungary in 2000 and early 2001, please see the section on Hungary of Anti-Semitism Worldwide 2000/1 by the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University available at http://www.tau.ac.il/Anti-Semitism/asw2000-1/hungary.htm.

For information on anti-Semitism in Hungary prior to 2000, please see the attached Section H, Expressions of Xenophobia, Racism and Anti-Semitism in the Second Report on Hungary published by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance of the Council of Europe in March 2000.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References


Agence France Presse (AFP). 11 January 2002. Eszter Szamado. "In Hungary, Churches Could Sway Election Race." (LEXIS)

_____. 27 October 2001. "Hungarian Radio Station Fined for Inciting Hatred." (LEXIS)

The Budapest Sun. 4 April 2002. Adam LeBor. "Battlefield Over Center-Blocks." http://www.budapestsun.com/full_story.asp?ArticleId={27079EB6CEDB4765A1E720FB2BDA5D46}&From=News [Accessed 3 May 2002]

_____. 24 January 2002. Mitchell Craig. "Historic Gathering Marks Jewish Liberation." http://www.budapestsun.com/full_story.asp?ArticleId={5C904E47E7194D59877DD50078F2C36D}&From=News [Accessed 3 May 2002]

______. 23 August 2001. "Justice Minister Admits She Was 'Naive'." http://www.budapestsun.com/full_story.asp?ArticleId={E91DAE5AFF5D4894BC41BBB647CBA077}&From=News [Accessed 3 May 2002]

Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA). n.d. "Hungarian Media." http://www.cefta.org/memberstates/hungary/humedia/humedia.htm [Accessed 3 May 2002]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 2002. World Report 2002. http://hrw.org/wr2k2/europe11.html [Accessed 2 May 2002]

Hungarian Radio [Budapest, in Hungarian]. 10 January 2002. "Hungary: Anti-Semitism Not Led From Above, Far Right Voting Base Weak - Minister." (BBC Monitoring 11 Jan. 2002/LEXIS)

_____. 7 January 2002. "Journalists Concerned About Anti-Semitism in Hungarian Media." (BBC Monitoring 7 Jan. 2002/LEXIS)

_____. 12 October 2001. "Hungary: Storm Over Far-Right Anti-Jewish, Anti-Romany Incitement." (BBC Monitoring 13 Oct. 2001/LEXIS)

The Jewish Bulletin Online of Northern California [San Francisco]. 7 September 2001. "Hungarian Far-Rightist Won't Be Investigated." http://www.jewishsf.com/bk010907/iworld.shtml [Accessed 3 May 2002]

Nepszabadsag [Budapest, in Hungarian]. 2 May 2002. "Hungary: Coalition Talks Begin; New Government Structure Emerging." (FBIS-EEU-2002-0502 2 May 2002/WNC)

_____. 21 February 2002. "Hungary: Defending Charges of Anti-Semitism Humiliating - Premier Visits EU Assembly." (BBC Monitoring 22 Feb. 2002/LEXIS)

_____. 17 August 2001. "Hungary: Opposition Condemns Spread of Hatred, Racism, Urges Action." (BBC Monitoring 18 Aug. 2001/LEXIS)

_____. 2 August 2002. "Hungary: Sociologist on Spread of Racism, Anti-Semitism in Soccer Clubs." (BBC Monitoring 3 Aug. 2001/LEXIS)

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Newsline [Prague]. 23 August 2001. Vol. 5, No. 160, Part II. "Jewish Community Wants Investigation on Anti-Semitic Remarks." (listmanager@list.rferl.org)

TV2 [Budapest, in Hungarian]. 30 November 2001. "Hungary: Paper Showing Anti-Semitic Priest Discredits Reformed Church - Synod" (BBC Monitoring 30 Nov. 2001/LEXIS)

_____. 4 July 2001. "(Corr) Hungary: Death Threat to Chief of Radio Slot, Ruled Anti-Jew, Anti-Roma." (BBC Monitoring 5 July 2001/LEXIS)

Attachment


European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) [Strasbourg]. 21 March 2000. Second Report on Hungary. Adopted on 18 June 1999. http://www.coe.int/T/E/human_rights/Ecri/1-ECRI/2-Country-by-country_approach/Hungary/PDF_Hungary.pdf [Accessed 3 May 2002]

Additional Sources Consulted


IRB Databases

Internet sites including:

Amnesty International

Anti-Defamation League [New York]

European Commission

European Union Accession Monitoring Program of the Open Society Institute

Global Jewish Assistance and Relief Network [New York]

Hungarian Helsinki Committee

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights
US Department of State

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2001

US Department of State

Annual Report on International Religious Freedom 2001

The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem