Hungarian Yearbook of International Law and European Law

Article

Limitations of the Physical Expression of Opinion

Decision No. 14/2019. (IV. 17.) AB of the Constitutional Court of Hungary

Keywords freedom of expression, expression of opinion, Constitutional Court of Hungary, political freedom, conflict between fundamental rights
Authors Gábor Kurunczi
Author's information

382540 Gábor Kurunczi
Gábor Kurunczi: visiting lecturer, Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Budapest; senior lecturer, National University of Public Service, Budapest.
  • Abstract

      The present case note tries to answer the question whether Article IX of the Fundamental Law of Hungary protects the physical expression of opinion, by analyzing the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court. The protection of freedom of expression has been a priority for the Constitutional Court from the outset. In the 21st century, however, as far as freedom of expression is concerned, it is not enough for the Constitutional Court to rely solely on doctrines. Increasingly, courts are faced with cases where those expressing their opinion do not express their message in words, but in a physical way. And these acts (e.g. dousing a statue with paint or just painting a crack in a sidewalk in four colors) are very often in conflict with other fundamental rights (e.g. with the right to property), raising the question of the illegality of the action expressing the opinion. In 2019, the Constitutional Court dealt with three such cases. This case note analyzes the Decision No. 14/2019. (IV. 17.) AB of the Constitutional Court. In essence, the Constitutional Court had to answer three questions: (i) What are the criteria for deciding whether an act can be included in the constitutionally protected scope of freedom of expression (and how are the actions of the petitioners to be judged)? (ii) If an act can be included within the constitutionally protected scope of expression, how to balance it with other fundamental rights, in particular to the right to property? (iii) Where are the boundaries between constitutionally protected expressions and criminal acts? The aim of the present case note is to raise some new aspects to allow for further reflection on the topic.

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