Last Monday, Hungary and Poland blocked the EU’s historic financial package of 1.82 trillion euros. The right-wing nationalist governments of the two countries want to prevent the rule of law compliance conditionality in the distribution of EU funds. Meanwhile, the recently declared “State of Danger” in Hungary is being used by the government to amend the constitution again under the pretext of the Corona pandemic and to govern by decree. The new draft laws restrict the rights of LGBTI persons, undermine the transparency of expenditure of state funds and reduce the influence of opposition parties in the next parliamentary elections.
What has happened in Hungary since the adoption of the controversial emergency law?
The “Coronavirus Law” adopted by the Hungarian Parliament on 30th March did not only enable Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to govern by decree for an unlimited period of time, but also suspended elections and referendums. With the passing of the emergency law, the parliament controlled by Orbán’s right-wing conservative Fidesz party had disempowered itself. The law also provides for prison sentences of several years for the dissemination of false news as well as for news that could cause panic. This emergency law has somewhat distracted the public from the fact that the dismantling of fundamental freedoms is not only being pursued under the banner of the fight against corona, but is continuing on all fronts.
What has Hungary as a whole been doing since the so-called “Enabling Act” was adopted by Parliament? Here is a chronicle of events:
Judges declare restrictive measures unlawful
With the introduction of a travel ban for its own citizens, the Czech measures to contain the corona epidemic have so far been among the strictest in Europe. Two weeks ago, the Prague City Court overturned four measures taken by the Czech Ministry of Health that restricted the free movement of citizens and retailers. A number of lawyers believe that this ruling increases the chances of businessmen and entrepreneurs to claim compensation from the state. Some legal experts also stress that the Czech government must provide more detailed justification explaining the need for the significant restrictions on fundamental rights and freedoms.
Human rights violations on the parliamentary agenda in Hungary and Poland
The increasingly autocratic tendencies observed in Poland and Hungary during the Corona crisis have alarmed the European Union. With street protests currently banned, human rights activists fear that the pandemic will be used by national conservative governments in both countries to consolidate their power and undermine democracy and human rights. The challenge of the COVID 19 crisis must not be used as a distraction from legislative measures aimed at restricting human rights or stigmatizing certain groups of people.
With “Animate Europe” we are bringing Europe to life through comics. Our international comic comeptition is currently running in it’s third round (you can enter until 5. February).
However, within the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, we’re not the only ones using the “Ninth art” to spread ideas and messages. Find out what our colleagues in the Philippines are doing:
19 young artists from all over the Philippines shared their dreams for the country in a comic strip!
The Philippine Office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) launched its very first comics competition dubbed as ‘I Am Free To Dream’ on 22 June 2015, which aims to exhibit Filipinos’ dreams and aspirations for the Philippines, especially those wishes that ordinary citizens can contribute to making real.
“Filipinos are very creative, not only in drawing but in everyday life – they find ingenious ways to enjoy their freedom!,” said former FNF Country Director Jules Maaten. “The aspirations that the artists sketched for I Am Free To Dream contest are realizable because there is freedom in the Philippines that allow people to pursue their dreams. This is why we should always value our freedom especially when it is challenged,” he added.
The comics contest was organized under the banner of FNF Philippines’ Freedom Project, an annual search for initiatives that promote freedom in the Philippines. The top three artworks, along with the eight finalists’ were printed in a book as a chronicle of how Filipinos would like to see the Philippines in five years. The common theme of the winning entries turned out to be a ‘nation that has greater freedom, and Filipinos that are more responsible.’
On January 12, 2016, the results were released proclaiming the following winners: the entry by Harold Dela Rosa of Talavera, Nueva Ecija (northern part of the Philippines) emerged as the best artwork. Patrick Acma’s (Iloilo) comics on transforming communities through education, and Freddie Vicente’s (Bulacan) illustration on preserving culture and tradition were awarded as second and third place respectively. “They were all very well done, and speak of practical action,” commended Pugad Baboy creator Pol Medina, who was a member of the contest’s jury.
Medina, Presidential Communications Office Assistant Secretary Kael Co, and top advertising agency Lowe Philippines Creative Director Rene Dominguez sat as judges.
The young and talented participants were grateful to have been given a platform by which they could voice-out their dreams for themselves and for the Philippines. FNF Philippines recognizes the power of both the youth and the arts in transforming societies.
Participants were required to submit comics entries that are at least two pages, and a maximum of four pages. The text could be either be in English or Filipino. The entry must be submitted together with a one line description. Professional and amateur artists, teachers and students were eligible to join. National and international entries were welcomed. Aside from seeing the best artworks published in a book, the finalists received cash prizes.
Following the success of the I am Free to Dream Comics Competition, FNF Philippines collaborated with the comics genius and member of the jury of ‘I am Free To Dream’ Comic Competition, Mr. Pol Medina, in compiling his comic strips on Martial Law in one Marcos Special comic book.
“FNF is lucky that Polgas, the famous character of the Pugad Baboy Comics series, is joining the bark against Martial Law. Pol Medina cleverly illustrates the threats of an authoritarian comeback. This book is a smart analysis of what have become of people’s attitudes – their forgetfulness of the atrocities of the past, and their unconscious willingness to give up their freedom,” said former FNF Country Director Jules Maaten.
“We should do what we can to preserve freedom while we are still free,” said Medina at the launch on 14 April 2016 at Plaza Ibarra, Quezon City. In the cover page of his book he wrote: “It wasn’t really my plan to come up with a compilation of anti-Marcos comics, but people kept posting on my facebook page about the glory days of Martial Law. To me, this is like spitting on the victims of atrocities, and this itched me to do something, hence this book.”
Medina first published Pugad Baboy in 1988, and has since become a representation of Filipinos sentiments on political and social issue, and a reflection of the pop culture.
“FNF Philippines looks forward to more initiatives and partnerships that the ‘I am Free to Dream’ Comics and the Pugad Baboy Marcos Special Comics have already started. Filipinos’ talent, ingenuity and love for freedom are astonishing and should be no less than promoted,” adds the current FNF Philippines Country Director Mr. Wolfgang Heinze,
I Am Free to Dream Comics and Pugad Baboy Marcos Special Comics are available upon request. Should you wish to receive a copy, please email FNF Philippines at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message on FNF Philippines’ facebook fan page – FNF Philippines: It’s All About Freedom.
Following the Reform of the Polish Constitutional Court in December 2015, the EU launched its “Rule of Law Dialogue” to restore the independence of the Polish judiciary. The Dialogue between Poland and the EU has since been ongoing, but it takes two to tango and so far the two parties have not gotten much closer to a solution acceptable to both sides. In Poland the opposition has showed its disdain for the December Constitutional Reforms and thousands of demonstrators have marched in the streets in opposition to the move by Poland`s ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS). On May 23 it was expected that the EU would deliver a scathing Opinion on the status quo in Poland, but instead the European Commission took the opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to “constructive dialogue”.