Stories from Quick Reads and Hungary
The capitals of Romania and Hungary, Bucharest and Budapest, respectively, are so often confused that those unfamiliar with the region often book airplane tickets to Bucharest, when their intention is to get to Budapest and vice-versa. In fact, 400 soccer fans from Spain chartered a flight last year to the 2012 Europa League Final in Budapest. Their only problem was that the actual final was in Bucharest.
Students from the Faculty of Law at ELTE University in Hungary sued the faculty's student union after they denied a freedom of information (FOIA) request. The students wanted to know who received bonus payments from the union's monthly budget of around $3,300. They wrote on their blog ÁJK HÖK Figyelő (Faculty of Law Student Union Monitor)[hu] that the student union head unilaterally decides on bonus payments. The initiative of the law bloggers gained support of the Hungarian National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information as well, and their first court hearing [hu] attracted some 30 members of the public.
Hungarian musicians signed an online petition [hu] against the restrictive definition of “Hungarian music” included in Hungary's media law, which considers only Hungarian-language productions as “Hungarian music.” The petitioners argued that the definition is not only excluding many artists from being part of the Hungarian music and culture, but is discriminatory when it comes to the application of language quotas in radio broadcasts. Radio stations have to apply a 35-percent quota of “Hungarian music” in their music shows. The regulation came into effect in July 2012 [hu].
The Hungarian Student Network and the Hungarian High School Network posted a declaration [en] “about the rule of law” in Hungary – and are planning yet another protest rally [hu] in Budapest on Monday, Feb. 11:
Today’s proposal for a constitutional amendment has made it obvious – even for those who so far doubted it – that the government is openly dismantling the system of checks and balances. According to Article 12 of the proposal, the Constitutional Court will not be allowed to scrutinize the content of any further amendments, which in effect means that the government and its two-thirds parliamentary majority will be able to pass any amendments they want. [...]
Just been through a 12-hour kidnapping ordeal in Aleppo. Yesterday morning me, a Mexican and a Basque journalist were abducted by unknown gunmen near the Ezzaa frontline in eastern Aleppo. We were handcuffed, blindfolded and held in a cell for the rest of the day. Eventually we were stripped of all our possessions and left by the roadside in an abandoned area of the city. We then made our way to the headquarters of the Al Tawheed brigade, one of the main armed opposition groups in Aleppo. We are now well and unharmed and out of Syria. [...]
Hungarian grassroots student union Hallgatói Hálózat (Student Network) started a blog that curates freedom of information requests related to higher education. The blog, titled Transparent Education [hu], is using the Hungarian public freedom of information request service KiMitTud [hu] to track down the allegations of misuse of funds by university student governments. The blog's author Dániel G. Szabó was the one who sued the Faculty of Law at ELTE University in order to publicize the information on the Faculty's student government spendings. The aim of the blog is to promote the use of freedom of information requests, and to make the spending of public funds transparent at Hungarian colleges and universities.
According to a report [hu] on Facebook page “The Constitution is Not a Toy,” some 100 protesters have occupied the Hungarian governing party's headquarters; a pro-government crowd, however, has also showed up at the scene. The protesters voiced their opposition to the planned new amendment of the Hungarian constitution, a basic law that was enacted in 2011, after Fidesz Party won with a two thirds majority in 2010, and has been at the center of heated debates in and outside the country ever since. The latest review of the amendment by the Princeton University professor Kim Lane Scheppele was published here.
Rick Falkvinge, the founder of Pirate Party, reinterprets the wars of religion that devastated Western Europe in the XVI and XVII centuries in terms of the current struggle to control information through overbearing legislation related to copyright and freedom of expression:
The religious wars were never about religion as such. They were about who held the power of interpretation, about who controlled the knowledge and culture available to the masses. It was a war of gatekeepers of information.