Proposed Hungarian Media Law Would Threaten Freedom

Washington

New legislation currently under consideration by the Hungarian Parliament is the latest government initiative that poses a threat to press freedom, according to Freedom House. Among other things, the measure would impose fines on private media organizations for “unbalanced” news coverage.

The law, which is expected to be passed shortly, would provide the National Media and Communications Authority’s (NMHH) Media Council with the authority to impose fines on private newspapers, websites, broadcasters, and other content providers that have violated press rules on “balanced” coverage as well as immoral reporting (such as content involving sex, violence, and alcohol). Fines could be as much as $934,000 for radio and television stations, $120,000 for daily newspapers and online news outlets, and approximately $47,000 for weeklies. Outlets could also be suspended or shut down. The new law, in essence, subjects private media organizations to the rules and regulations that govern public and state-run media and imposes potentially severe penalties for content-related violations.

“This legislation, combined with other troubling moves against the media, will be a major setback for press freedom in Hungary,” said Karin Karlekar, Managing Editor of Freedom House’s annual Freedom of the Press index. “Of particular concern is the wording of the supposed ‘violations’ which is very is broad, creating an environment conducive to significant misuse, especially given the extremely polarized political environment in the country.”

In August, President Pál Schmitt approved legislation which restructured supervision over Hungary’s public media and created a new National Media and Communications Authority (NMHH). Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the leader of the ruling Fidesz party, appointed a former Fidesz politician as the director of the NMHH’s Media Council for a nine-year term, and the remaining four seats on the Council were filled by Fidesz supporters following a parliamentary vote in October. The new Media Council has been given enhanced regulatory powers and considerable control over all forms of media. In November, additional legislation was adopted that forces journalists to reveal their sources in articles concerning national security or public safety issues. The measures have met with significant opposition from Hungarian media as well as local and international press freedom watchdogs, which note that they contravene international and European best practice standards.

Hungary is ranked Free in Freedom in the World 2010, Freedom House’s survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Free in Freedom of the Press 2010.

For more information on Hungary, visit:

Freedom in the World 2010: Hungary

Freedom of the Press 2010: Hungary

Nations in Transit 2010

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights. 
 
Join us on Facebook and Twitter (freedomhousedc) and stay up to date with Freedom House’s latest news and events by signing up for our RSS feeds.
 


Supporting the right of every individual to be free
www.freedomhouse.org

###

 

Regions: 
Reports: 
Countries: