[JURIST] Tens of thousands of protesters gathered outside of the Hungarian State Opera on Monday to protest the the country’s controversial new constitution, which took effect January 1. A gala was being held to celebrate the new constitution, which the protesters condemned as hypocritical [AP report]. Opponents have criticized the constitution as giving the government too much power over the media, economy and religion in violation of international human rights laws. They claim that the new constitution, passed by two-thirds of the Parliament [official website], has eroded the country’s democratic checks and balances. The Hungarian government responded that the new constitution, passed in April, was long overdue and embodies national and European values.
Hungary’s controversial news laws have been the source of much criticism over the past year. In December Hungary’s Constitutional Court [official website, in Hungarian] struck down [JURIST report] certain provisions of the country’s recently passed media law as an unconstitutional restraint on press freedom. The court also struck down a law regulating religious organizations [JURIST report]. In April Hungarian President Pal Schmitt signed into law the new constitution [JURIST report] amid concern from civil society leaders and opposition politicians that the document contravenes European human rights principles. According to Human Rights Watch [advocacy website], the new constitution “enshrines discrimination” and jeopardizes the rights of people with disabilities, women and LGBT people.