Hungarian Yearbook of International Law and European Law

Article

Content Neutrality and the Limitation of Free Speech

The Relevance of an American Principle in the Case-Law of the Constitutional Court of Hungary

Keywords Constitutional Court of Hungary, limitation of free speech, freedom of expression, content neutrality, external boundary
Authors Bernát Török
Author's information

364555 Bernát Török
Associate professor, National University of Public Service, Budapest.
  • Abstract

      Content neutrality is arguably the most frequently mentioned principle of free speech doctrine both in legal theory and in legal practice. While it is well-known how important it is in the jurisprudence of the US, it generally remains obscure whether content neutrality is of true relevance for European jurisdictions. This article argues that the Hungarian doctrine of freedom of expression urges us to answer affirmatively. The case-law of the Hungarian Constitutional Court from the last three decades clearly demonstrates that although along with serious challenges to be responded to, content neutrality is a fundamental element of constitutional adjudication in the Hungarian doctrine. With its key concept of ‘external boundaries of free speech’, the Constitutional Court builds on the principle that restrictions should not be based on the fact that the content of speech is unacceptable, unworthy or wrong, and limitation on speech should be justified not by referring to its content alone but by referring to its context. After exploring the relevant case-law of the Constitutional Court and identifying the challenges this principle is facing in Hungarian doctrine, this article aims to construe valid theses of content neutrality in Hungarian law.

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