Freedom of the Press
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Hungary’s constitution protects freedom of speech and of the press, and a wide selection of competitive media outlets generally operate without interference from the state. However, the Media Law of 1996 has been widely criticized, partly because it has not facilitated the much-needed transformation of the public service media. Instead, it has reinforced entrenched interests and institutionalized political interference, including in political and civic appointments to oversight bodies. In one step forward in August 2006, the board of Hungarian public radio elected a new president, filling a position that had been in dispute for about two years. Libel remains a criminal offense, and the criminal code holds journalists responsible not only for their own words, but for publicizing libelous statements made by others. State secrecy legislation has also raised press freedom concerns. Rita Csik, a journalist for the daily Nepszava, had been acquitted of state secrecy violations in 2005. The government appealed, but a higher court upheld the verdict in May 2006.
Attacks on the press in Hungary are rare, but in September 2006, after several nights of heated protests calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany over his admission that he had lied for more than a year about Hungary’s economic state, protesters broke into public broadcaster Magyar Televizio and forced it off the air. It was reported that the protesters were trying to broadcast their own message.
The media landscape is dominated by private companies, with high levels of foreign investment in both national and local newspapers. Independent news outlets 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. The internet is widely accessible, was used by over 30 percent of the population in 2006, and has been governed by a voluntary code of conduct introduced by a professional association of internet content and service providers.