On the 1st of January a new era will dawn on Hungary. It will take over the Presidency of European Council for the first time and a new law on media freedom will come into effect.
While the first thing is something for Hungarians to celebrate, the law on the other hand is not. It has been criticised by the OSCE Media freedom representative who wrote in a report that “Regulating print media can curb media freedom and free public debate, which are indispensable elements of democracies” and “Regulating online media is not only technologically impossible but it exerts a chilling, self-censoring effect on free expression.”
Freedom House set the law was “a major setback for press freedom in Hungary”.
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn has said “The plans clearly violate the spirit and the letter of EU treaties” and “It raises the question whether such a country is worthy of leading the EU.”
A good reference of this is Article 11 of Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of the EU which states
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.
2. The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected.
Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms also deals with this, which Hungary also party to
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
The law which was proposed by the Fidesz party who won the general election back in April, have used their power to appoint party supporters to the National Media and Communications Authority (NMHH).
This is a clear breach of media freedoms. The Hungarian Government will stifle free speech with this law, as to actually appeal one must pay the fines.
The fines are roughly €720,000 for TV and Radio Stations, €90,000 for newspapers and €36,000 for news websites. This could easily bankrupt any media that may be opposed to the government.
I am supporting bloggingportal.eu’s campaign to raise awareness of this law and lodge my opposition to this law.
- Hungary passes law boosting government control of media (reuters.com)
- Hungary media law protest (guardian.co.uk)
- Hungarian editors stage protest (guardian.co.uk)
- Hungary sees blank page protest (bbc.co.uk)