How is private security in Hungary threatening the right to protest?

The practice of private security aggressively policing public events is a new reality in Hungary – even though it was found to be unlawful in spring 2017.

6 December 2017

This article is part of Right to Protest, a partnership project with human rights organisations CELS and INCLO, with support from the ACLU, examining the power of protest and its fundamental role in democratic society

In recent years, employees of private security agencies have been deployed by the Hungarian state during public events, alongside official law enforcement.

Not restricted by the regulations that bind the Hungarian police force, these private actors have total impunity, and often resort to verbal and physical abuse to stifle protests. 

2016 was a busy year for these private actors. In July, civilians gathered in Budapest to protest against plans to transform a green space into a museum complex. Private security forces linked to the governing party confronted the peaceful protesters with pepper spray, and left some with broken bones. Earlier in the year, on 23 February, muscle-bound men prevented István Nyakó, a politician from the main opposition party, from being the first to submit a referendum question on the government’s Sunday shopping ban. Nyakó’s application was annulled as a result (new electoral law states that only one referendum question can be examined at a time). On a public holiday in October, employees of a private security company denied many protesters access to a public gathering. They also confiscated whistles from civilians who wanted to use them to express their grievances during the official speeches.

On the initiative of the HCLU, on 22 March 2017, the ombudsman found the practice of private companies policing state events to be unlawful. However, the situation has not changed. 

How can Americans fight dark money and disinformation?

Violence, corruption and cynicism threaten America's flagging democracy. Joe Biden has promised to revive it – but can his new administration stem the flow of online disinformation and shady political financing that has eroded the trust of many US voters?

Hear from leading global experts and commentators on what the new president and Congress must do to stem the flood of dark money and misinformation that is warping politics around the world.

Join us on Thursday 21 January, 5pm UK time/12pm EST.

Hear from:

Emily Bell Leonard Tow Professor of Journalism and director, Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia Journalism School

Anoa Changa Journalist focusing on electoral justice, social movements and culture

Peter Geoghegan openDemocracy investigations editor and author of 'Democracy for Sale: Dark Money and Dirty Politics'

Josh Rudolph Fellow for Malign Finance at the Alliance for Securing Democracy

Chair: Mary Fitzgerald Editor-in-chief, openDemocracy 

Further speakers to be announced

Had enough of ‘alternative facts’? openDemocracy is different Join the conversation: get our weekly email


We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData