Századvég held a conference on one of the most topical issues of our time, freedom of speech. The main question of the Freedom of Speech Conference was “Is there still freedom of speech?”. At the event, prominent national and international figures shared their thoughts with the participants on topics such as hate speech, freedom of expression and freedom of the press, the influence of the internet on freedom of speech, and how Brussels is making public discourse in Hungary more difficult.


In his welcome address, Gábor Fűrész, President of the Századvég Foundation, said that no one in the general public would dispute that censorship is part of our everyday lives – recently, Brussels lawmakers have started legislation on digital content services, not on protecting the freedom of speech of European citizens. The President said that the scope of hate speech has broadened, and now satire and memes can also be considered hate speech, as well as expressions or opinions that offend members of an identity group. Gábor Fűrész stressed that “here in Central Europe, we value freedom of expression” and added that

“we should be proud” that it is still possible to express opinions freely in Hungary.

After the welcome speech by Gábor Fűrész, Tamás Deutsch MEP gave the opening speech. The politician said that the EU wants to introduce “binding rules of conduct” in several areas. Among other things, they have adopted EU media regulations with provisions that openly violate national and even fundamental EU provisions, he explained.

Another proposal would include and extend the definition of hate speech to EU criminal offences, he continued, stressing that the rule would also declare “critical statements concerning gender ideological madness” as EU hate speech.

Tamás Deutsch said that the EU would also reform the rules on political advertising in order to eliminate opinions “it does not like”. The new law aims to say exactly what parties can talk about in a political campaign.

“Our task is nothing less than to understand that we must fight when our personal, community, national and European freedoms are under attack,” the MEP said.

According to Tamás Deutsch, what distinguishes Hungarians from Western Europeans is that “we lived under a regime that was a true dictatorship, which wanted to eliminate not only opinion, but also the person voicing the opinion.” He added: “We know exactly what it means to fight for freedom”.

According to Tamás Deutsch,

freedom begins somewhere “when I am not only allowed to love those close to me, love my country or confess my pious thoughts, but also to speak freely about all of these things.”

Another speaker at the conference was Dr. András Lánczi, a philosopher and political theorist, who said that today there are many attacks on free speech, “not only on the left, but also on the right.” The main reason is that modern left liberal progressivism is in a radical stage. He added that progressives have radicalised equality and have seized the right to sacrifice, for example, human rights on the altar of other rights in the name of progress. “Progression is not a means of seeking justice. It tries to suppress all other ideas”, András Lánczi explained, and stressed that

the main enemy of free speech is ideology-based modern thinking, which is not interested in the truth.

András Lánczi was followed by a speech by Prof. Dr. Andreas Kinneging, Professor of Philosophy of Law, with the title “Equality and freedom (of speech): Cain and Abel?”. Kinneging argues that, while equality was previously a demand for the state, today the state is expected to enforce equality between individuals and communities in the private sphere. The professor believes that the idea that communism is a thing of the past is wrong, and that current egalitarianism makes communism a thing of the future.

The Professor was followed by a speech by Mark C. Henrie, President of the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation. He said that migrants coming to America find it difficult to adapt to local conditions. Mark C. Henrie pointed out that today cancel culture is openly at work, and it is getting more and more brutal in American culture. According to the American conservative politician, people simply cannot speak their minds openly because then they are at risk of cancel culture. He said that there are forms of expression and sayings that every society wants to limit, because every society has its sacred things, yet in the contemporary world, what used to be sacred is now replaced by new sacred things (for example, the sanctity of marriage and sexuality used to be taboo, but now it is quite different and open). Henrie says this does not bring equality.

Mark C. Henrie’s speech was followed by a round table discussion, with the participation of Prof. Dr. Mária Schmidt, Director General of the House of Terror Museum, Szilárd Demeter, Director of the Petőfi Literary Museum and Gábor Megadja, Director of the Research Institute for Political Thought at Századvég Foundation. They discussed what has changed in terms of free speech since the 1960s.

Mária Schmidt said free speech means that opinions can be expressed. However, there is an “absurd trend”: the complete reduction of the role of the state, the outsourcing of all its functions to private companies, which then regulate what fits within the framework of freedom of speech, but they do not do so on the basis of rules,” the Director General of the House of Terror Museum stressed.

According to Mária Schmidt,

it is “a great thing” that in Hungary you can read opinions from all sides, which shows balance.

Szilárd Demeter said that consumers of culture are passive, while those who carry culture are active actors who participate in shaping culture, but today people have been “pushed” into the role of consumers of culture. He cited the “Me too” campaign as an example, where people were accused of abusive behaviour at work and were publicly “executed” for it. In his opinion, this raises a problem: according to the law, a person is guilty only after an independent court has declared him/her guilty, but this was overturned by “Me too”, because there was no evidence, people were convicted on the basis of hearsay.

Szilárd Demeter also said that

debate is possible when there is a common premise, but this is disappearing, because everyone is just expressing their ideas, which do not come into contact with one another.

Dr András Koltay, President of the National Media and Infocommunications Authority and Chairman of the Media Council, also spoke at the conference, stressing that

legal protection of free speech alone cannot create quality public discourse, and therefore social norms are undoubtedly needed.

In his speech, András Koltay explained the differences between the legal category of freedom of speech and reality, and said that the state must ensure freedom of speech through legal means, while in society, free speech is limited by cultural norms based on common agreement, ideally based on the principle of mutual respect.

However, he noted that online debates are now won by the person who shouts the loudest. The fact that everyone has the chance to speak out on the internet is both a blessing and a curse, as it allows many more people to speak out, but it also means that there are a lot of less valuable ideas and malicious speakers.

Another speaker at the conference was Alvino-Mario Fantini, Editor-in-Chief of European Conservative, who said that there is a rather selective sensitivity to freedom of speech on the progressive left. Under the banner of freedom of expression, they defend any expression that seeks to subvert traditional concepts and practices, while at the same time they seek to restrict free speech by any means necessary when it is in defence of tradition.

Alvino-Mario Fantini was followed by the speech of Márton Falusi, researcher at Research Institute for Political Thought at the Századvég Foundation, entitled A critical perspective on free speech: rhetoric as knowledge. The researcher approached the issue of freedom of expression from a rhetorical, philosophical and literary-theoretical point of view, and argued that when we consider free speech from a legal, economic and sociological point of view, we ignore the fundamental condition of its exercise, the ability to speak and understand. Falusi spoke about the difference between the strategies of literary and political rhetoric, explaining that the prevailing beliefs about the relationship between poetics and politics are based on the assumption that in both discourses the other is stable, and that the reflexive moments of the self-image of each discourse are made possible by the fixation of a view of the other. For literature, politics is the art of persuasion, and its rhetoric is thus transparent and manipulative; for politics, literature is the art of entertainment, and its rhetoric is accordingly open to arbitrary interpretations. The perception of one of them of the other, however, also had an impact on their self-perception; for this reason, the “scientificness” of literature proclaimed the elimination of interpretations from the perspective of the history of ideas, and the measure of scientificity depended on the extent to which this requirement was fulfilled; the “scientificness” of politics gave birth to a kind of constitutional law that was intended to extract the authoritative meaning from the constitutional text in an operational way, said Márton Falusi.

Afterwards, Dr. Gergely Gosztonyi, habilitated associate professor, spoke about how one of the means of restricting free speech is restricting internet access in the world. He said that the problem with private regulation of expression is that digital expression is carried out through privately owned sophisticated communications infrastructure, so the decisions of the owners of private infrastructure determine our actual opportunities for expression, and they control the digital spaces in which people communicate with each other.

The conference also featured a presentation by Zoltán Béky, legal expert at the Századvég Foundation, who spoke about the relationship between the European Union, free speech and sovereignty, including the (now openly admitted) aim of the current EU leadership and the globalists behind them is to hamper and obstruct public communication by the Hungarian government and the ruling parties, especially with regard to this year’s election campaigns.

The conference concluded with a speech by Áron Czopf, researcher at the Research Institute for Political Thought of Századvég Foundation, entitled The phenomenon of political silence. In his presentation, he spoke about how the phenomenon of political silence is almost completely ignored in political science, because the conventional wisdom is that silence in politics simply means absence. He added that discursive political scientists believe that in politics, only what we talk about exists, and therefore silence cannot be attributed any positive role. The lecture broke with this conventional view by examining the different forms of political silence and the metapolitical role of silence.

Source Századvég’s own edition based on MTI and