Hungary | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Hungary

Hungary

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

21

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

8

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

8

The constitution guarantees freedom of expression and of the press. Libel is criminalized under the criminal code, which holds journalists responsible not only for their own words, but for publicizing statements made by others. The persistently high number of court cases brought against journalists raised concerns in 2005. Antonia Radai of the weekly Heti Vilaggazdasag was prosecuted after publishing information about relationships between alleged Mafia figures and civil servants, though since the indictment is classified it is impossible to learn the details of the charges. Laszlo Torok, a journalist at the daily Magyar Nemzet, was handed down a suspended libel sentence for quoting comments that the deputy head of the opposition FIDESZ-HCU party had made about Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany in 2003. The case against Nepszava journalist Rita Csik for violating state secrecy laws ended with an acquittal of the journalist by a lower court, but this decision has been appealed to another court. The high court annulled last year's 10-month suspended jail sentence for libel given to Andras Bencsik of the weekly Magyar Demokrata.

Efforts are under way to replace the 1996 Law on the Media, which introduced commercial broadcasting and broke up the monopoly of the state-controlled public service channels. According to media advocates, however, drafts to date focused excessively on stringent regulation of electronic media, including the internet. The crisis in appointing a new head of public radio underscored the need for a new law to depoliticize public media and improve the functioning of the National Radio and Television Commission, to avoid overshadowing the public interest with party politics.

The media landscape is dominated by private companies, with high levels of foreign investment in both national and local newspapers. Independent media operate freely in Hungary, though they clearly reflect the divisions of the national political scene. Diversity is on the rise in both print and electronic media, including several new private television and cable channels launched during the year. The internet is used widely; in 2005, there was a 92.5 percent increase in the number of broadband subscribers. To date, the internet has been governed by a voluntary code of conduct introduced by a professional association of internet content and service providers.