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Hungary: News website awaits court decision in Jobbik hyperlink free expression complaint

Tomorrow, human rights judges will announce their decision in a freedom of expression case against Hungary.

The case centres on a complaint by the website after it published a hyperlink to content which defamed the Jobbik political party.

Magyar Jeti Zrt v. Hungary (application no. 11257/16)

The applicant company, Magyar Jeti Zrt, is a private limited company, registered under Hungarian law.

The company operates a popular news website called www.444.hu. In September 2013, the website published an article about an incident in the village of Konyár, near the border with Romania, in which a group of apparently drunk football supporters had stopped outside a school attended mainly by Roma students and had shouted racist remarks.

The article included a hyperlink to an interview placed on YouTube by a media outlet focusing on Roma issues, which had spoken with a Konyár Roma community leader and a parent.

In the interview the community leader asserted that the football supporters were members of the Jobbik political party, stating: “Jobbik came in”, and “They attacked the school, Jobbik attacked it.”

In October, Jobbik brought defamation proceedings against eight defendants, including the community leader, the outlet which interviewed him, the applicant company and other media firms.

In March 2014, the High Court found that the community leader’s statements had been defamatory as he had falsely claimed that Jobbik was involved in the incident. The court also held that the applicant company and other media had “objective liability” (strict liability) as they had disseminated defamatory statements and it did not matter whether they had done that in good or bad faith.

The court order included a requirement for the applicant company to publish excerpts from the judgment on www.444.hu and to remove the hyperlink to the YouTube video from the article.

The judgment was upheld on appeal and the applicant company lodged a constitutional complaint and a petition for review with the Kúria (the Supreme Court), which were both rejected, the Constitutional Court decision coming in December 2017.

Relying on Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights, the applicant company complains that by finding it liable for posting a hyperlink on its website which led to defamatory content the domestic courts unduly restricted its rights.

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