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Bellucci, Lucia. “Media Law, Illiberal Democracy and the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Case of Hungary.” Media and Law: Between Free Speech and Censorship 26 (2021): 151–67.


Purpose – This chapter aims to show how media law strongly contributed to shape in Hungary what has been pictured as a U-turn. This illiberal trend was subsequently strengthened during the Covid-19 pandemic. Methodology/Approach – It considers that law also constitutes and not only orders political and social relationships. Law, including media law, has been in Hungary one of the main factors of change or rather of political-social construction. This chapter therefore moves from the study of positive law and analyzes Hungarian media laws within the theoretical framework of illiberal democracy, drawing from contributions to political science and socio-legal studies. Findings – This chapter demonstrated that media laws have outlined in Hungary a centralized regulatory system with broad powers, which lacks political independence, therefore encouraging self-censorship and limiting freedom of expression and pluralism. These laws contributed to shape the illiberal U-turn occurred in the country before the pandemic, but the coronavirus offered the occasion to reinforce government powers, giving the leeway to rule with no or minimum scrutiny for an indefinite period and further limiting dissent. The analysis enabled to argue that neither the media regulation established during the past decade nor the laws adopted during the Covid-19 pandemic are compatible with a modern democracy. Originality/Value – Based on existing literature, little research has been conducted on the appearance and endurance of non-democratic regimes, and supposedly even less within the context of the coronavirus pandemic which started only a few months ago, compared to the contributions available on democratization processes and democratic consolidation.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.