Freedom of assembly: here’s how the new law works

Hungary’s new assembly law came into force on Monday, October 1, replacing old regulations that dated to 1989. Here’s how it works and why it had to be modified.

According to the newly adopted legislation, public gatherings of two or more people, with the aim of expressing views on public matters qualify as an “assembly” and have to be reported to local police 48 hours in advance. Once the police have been notified, they have the authority to decide whether the gathering should be allowed.

Yes, the police have the right to prohibit the gathering, but only in certain cases. The police may prohibit: if it can reasonably be presumed that it’d directly and disproportionately jeopardize the safety and order of the public; if the assembly disturbs the private and family lives of others; or if it interferes with a member of the diplomatic corps in performing his or her duty. Although the decision is not subject to appeal, the organizers may contest it in court within three days.

Generally speaking, the new assembly law stands as a set of modern-day regulations based on German legislation in the same field. It doesn’t only address the concerns in recent years of the Constitutional Court but also focuses on cases when the right to assembly has been abused and tread upon the rights of others. There is one, general rule: granting someone’s freedom should not come at unreasonable expense to the freedom of another. 

For that purpose, the current assembly definition has also been crafted following the German example, as the previous definition in many cases led to severe legal ambiguity. It is, however, important to note that the law applies only to instances that are public affairs-related and open to the public.

This is what the new assembly law is all about. Any claims that it will somehow limit the freedom of assembly simply don’t hold up to serious scrutiny.