Don’t ban Jobbik – beat them

Written by Mike on . Posted in Blog, Free expression

Jobbik are a vile political party. The far-right political movement holds 3/22 Hungarian seats in the European Parliament and 47 seats in the Hungarian Parliament. As noted by Progress it is anti-semitic, anti-Roma and homophobic and allies with other European far-right movements including the British National party, Front National and Golden Dawn. Jobbik is part of Hungary’s new right-wing politics that has seen its Prime Minister Viktor Orbán clamp down on press freedom and rewrite the country’s constitution.

This weekend, the leader of Jobbik, Vona Gobor will attempt to rally his Hungarian supporters living in London. A number of Labour politicians including Camden’s Labour councillors and London Assembly Member Andrew Dismore have called for Gabor to be banned from entering the UK. They are wrong to do so.

Jobbik, like the BNP, is a legal political party. There is a significant difference between opposing fascist political parties which the excellent Hope Not Hate does, and banning political opinions (however offensive and vile) that you do not agree with. Dealing with hate speech is of course complex. But the attempt to bar political opinions you don’t like (the “no platform” policy of various student unions for instance) or prosecute them out of existence, has limited impact. Offensive opinions will regroup in the dark recesses of the internet.

In contrast, winning the argument and exposing the far-right works. As UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression Frank La Rue has pointed out in a recent report on hate speech the best way to combat hate speech is through more freedom of expression not less. The BNP is in considerable retreat because it has been given a platform, exposed and ridiculed. Subjecting the BNP’s claims to scrutiny and giving a voice to those who are victims of hate speech has neutered it. Banning the BNP would have, in hindsight, been counter-productive. The same is true of Jobbik. Let Gobor speak to a tiny hate-filled audience. Go and protest outside. Expose the anti-Semitic and hatred.

A Home Office ban would give Gobor the opportunity to tell an old lie from history – that the far-right are persecuted because only they speak the truth and the “liberal elite” are too frightened to let people to hear their message. It’s these conspiracies that fan the flames of racism.

It would also impact negatively on the situation in Hungary where free speech is in decline. Jobbik’s racism is increasingly becoming protected speech by Orban’s right-wing government. As Index on Censorship points out, the Hungarian Ambassador to Austria called for the cancellation of an anti-Jobbik art exhibition which opened in the Austrian city of Linz in October last year.

The exhibition by Roma artist Marika Schmiedt drew parallels between the Nazis and the Jobbik party. One poster shows Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on the label of “Natural Smoked Gypsy Cooked Salami” – right next to a Jobbik logo. The Ambassador, Vince Szalay-Bobrovniczky described the exhibition as “a cheap provocation, openly racist and hostile against Hungary”.

Unless we remain respectful of the right to free speech of vile anti-Semites such as Gobor, we risk strengthening the hand of the already powerful against marginalised voices such as Roma artists and Hungary’s under siege media.

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