Freedom of the Press
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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. Numerous competitive and independent media outlets generally operate without interference from the state, and many clearly reflect the divisions of the national political scene. In 2007, the media scored a victory when it uncovered a number of high-level incidents of corruption. The Media Law of 1996 continues to be widely criticized for reinforcing entrenched interests and institutionalizing political interference rather than protecting press freedom. Libel remains a criminal offense, and the criminal code holds journalists responsible not only for their own words, but also for publicizing insulting or libelous statements made by others. Restrictive state secrecy legislation has also raised concerns and brought criticism by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Representative on Freedom of the Media. A Constitutional Court decision to abolish the capacity of the country’s media regulatory body, ORTT, to levy fines and sanctions against media outlets has left a regulatory vacuum.
While most media seem to operate freely, media advocates have noted a slight progovernmental bias in most state-owned outlets. Some individual journalists were also exposed to pressure from state organs in 2007, and there were two incidents of detainment and questioning. One television journalist covering politics was pressured into leaving a morning show after a boycott by several political parties. Journalists were harassed by law enforcement authorities and others in several isolated incidents, including the arrest and fining of two journalists covering an unauthorized demonstration and the questioning of journalists investigating allegedly corrupt public officials. In June, investigative journalist Iren Karman was abducted and severely beaten; the assailants had not been identified by year’s end, but Karman was working on a documentary on the Mafia and had recently published a book on the subject.
The media landscape is dominated by private companies, with high levels of foreign investment in national and local newspapers. Diversity is on the rise in both print and electronic media; most notably, there has been an increase in vibrant and influential domestically owned electronic media outlets. The internet is widely available, is governed by a voluntary code of conduct introduced by a professional association of internet content and service providers, and was accessed by over 35 percent of the population in 2007. During the year, the government attempted to block the extreme right-wing website kuruc.info for publishing anti-Semitic material and contact information for a number of government officials, but soothe effort failed because the site was hosted by a foreign server.