a) Hungary / b) Constitutional Court / c) / d) 24-06-1994 / e) 36/1994 / f) / g) Magyar Közlöny (Official Gazette), 68/1994 / h) .
Keywords of the Systematic Thesaurus:
Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Freedom of expression.
Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Right to respect for one's honour and reputation.
Keywords of the alphabetical index:
Defamation, against public official.
Hungarian criminal law protects public authorities and public officials against libel, defamation and other insults. The Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional Article 232 of the Penal Code that prohibits defamation and libel against public officials. The Court found the provision unconstitutional because it unnecessarily limited freedom of expression.
The Court emphasised that this article punished libel and defamation against public officials in the same way as those committed against private persons. It also provided punishment for value judgments, which is an unnecessary and disproportionate limitation of the fundamental right to freedom of expression. Finally, the challenged provision differentiated neither between true and false statements, nor between a malicious and an unintentional commission of the offence.
In more general terms, the Court stated that the protection granted by criminal law to the honour of public authorities and officials is unconstitutional. In the case of libel and defamation against a politician or a public official a greater degree of insult may be tolerated than in the case of private persons.