The conference was organized by the Republikon Institute and the European Liberal Forum and was held online on the 17th of October. It dealt with the state of basic human rights in Hungary and Slovenia during the first wave of the pandemic. Sarka Prat who is the Board Member of ELF, welcomed the guests: András Kádár, co-chair of Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Natasa Briski, journalist, Sebastjan Pikl, managing director at NOVUM, Judit Székely, a researcher at Republikon Institute, and Dániel Mikecz, a researcher at Republikon Institute, who was the moderator of the discussion.
The first wave of the pandemic has affected the social and economic state of countries and the exercise of government power as well. The uncertainty and the need for measures resulted in the leading parties gaining more power, which can easily lead to misuses. The main goal of the survey, which has been carried out by Republikon Institue with the support of the ELF, was to explore the evaluation of the handling of the pandemic during the first wave, people's judgment of the state of human rights, and how they view the role of the European Union in dealing with the virus.
The presentation of the results was held by Judit Székely, who, among other things, said that people in both countries were critical of the political situation and the government's strategy for coronavirus. In comparison to Hungarians, Slovenian respondents were even more critical: less than half of the population said they trust the government. Two-thirds of the people said that they think the government misused its power during the first wave. Slovenian people considered individual responsibility the most important, while Hungarians mostly highlighted the importance of doctors. Considering human rights, although Slovenian respondents were more critical, people in both countries said that the freedom of speech, access to information became worse and mentioned that access to education became worse. People in both countries said that the EU's role is important in the fight against the virus, and it also should intervene if a national state misuses its power.
Regarding the findings, Natasa Briski commented that although there is a consensus about the importance of the defense against the virus, the aggressive communication about the measures may have led to the fact that Slovenian people distrust the government. In connection with scapegoating, she also talked about how the media became the main target of the government in Slovenia during the first wave.
András Kádár noted that the Hungarian situation was almost the opposite of the Slovenian: it seemed like the government made the first steps in response to people's pressure. He also mentioned that Hungarian people maybe saw accessing information more positively than Slovenians paradoxically exactly because of the monopolization of information. As scapegoats of the situation, he mentioned the Iranian students, the opposition, and the media.
Sebastjan Pikl said that what he found the most interesting about the results was the dissatisfaction with how the democracy is working in Slovenia, which means that people are critical of the government's work and the state of the entire system as well. He agreed with Natasa Briski that in Slovenia, the media became the number one victim of scapegoating. Also, he added that the refugees and migrants became scapegoats because the government painted them as security threats and as spreaders of coronavirus.
Judit Székely mentioned how the elderly became scapegoats of the situation as well, and she talked about that the first wave of the pandemic has also had many positive outcomes: a lot of people volunteered to help others with shopping, with digital tools, with sewing masks or with housing for university students who had to leave their dorms.
All the discussion participants were hopeful that this kind of 'taking matters into your own hands' attitude and solidarity towards each other would stay, and this experience would strengthen civil society in the future.
You can rewatch our conference here: