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A Leap Backward for Minority Rights in Slovakia

Dániel Deme 2022.08.11.

A new broadcasting law recently adopted by the Slovakian government was supposed to be a step towards improving on the rights of indigenous national minorities, however, a last minute amendment submitted by a liberal MP has drawn criticism from the politicians of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia.

According to Krisztián Forró, the president of the main political movement uniting Hungarian parties in Slovakia called Association (Szövetség), in October his party received a promise from the Minister of State for Culture according to which they intended to enforce language rights in television broadcasting. This promise was in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission.

However, an amendment submitted by liberal MP Mária Kolíková, currently listed under the left-wing SaS government party’s parliamentary fraction, has removed an exception to the subtitling obligation in the broadcasting of national minority programs. As a result of this, programs created in the languages of national minorities will need to include subtitles, increasing costs and complexity in a media environment where financial resources are scarce at best. The subtitling, however insignificant a requirement it appears at first, is also a symbolic slap in the face of the Hungarian minority, who have hoped to watch programs created specifically for them without the Slovakian state stamping its authority on it with the demand of bilinguality.

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During a press conference, the leader of the Association Krisztián Forró has expressed his surprise over the fact that that the OĽaNO government party’s Hungarian MP György Gyimesi had also voted in favor of the amendment. Moreover, he was one of the signatories of the proposal – stressed Forró.

Gyimesi is one of the most vocal advocates of the Hungarian community’s rights in Slovakia, as well as a champion of conservative values. He was behind a proposal to ban rainbow flags representing LGBTQ ideology on public buildings. Gyimesi was also the one who protested against media provocations in the Slovakian press accusing the Hungarian government of clandestine efforts to form an alliance with Russian president Vladimir Putin in order to validate some territorial demands against Slovakia, claims that had no basis whatsoever.

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According to Krisztián Forró,

the government’s promises to expand national minority rights have not been fulfilled and the central government continues to discriminate against Hungarian populated regions of southern Slovakia in the field of development policy. Currently, there is no force in the Slovak parliament that stands up for the Hungarian community,

Forró recalled.

Furthermore, the Alliance has called on MP Gyimesi to correct his mistake and stressed that the party would simultaneously turn to European forums in the hope of legal redress.

Konrád Rigó, also of the Alliance, said that the financial resources for the Hungarian-language broadcasting time in the public media, which is clarified by the law just adopted, are not available. The question is whether the funds will appear in the budget from 2023. According to Rigó, the amendment proposed by minister Kolíková (and György Gyimesi), as adopted, takes the language rights of national communities back to the era of Vladimír Mečiar, the authoritarian Prime Minister of Slovakia in the 1990s.

Featured Photo: Facebook Szövetség


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