EU institutions want clarifications form Hungary on its media legislation

By EDRi · January 26, 2011

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Deutsch: [EU Institutionen fordern von Ungarn Klarstellungen zum Mediengesetz |]

The Hungarian EU Presidency was met on 19 January 2011 with opposition and
criticism due to the controversial media legislation Hungary has recently
introduced. Some MEPs displayed white banners that read

Viktor Orban, the Hungarian Prime-Minister started his speech by stating
that the Hungarian government was willing to change the legislation if the
European Commission finds it to be at fault, as the law is presently under
its legal review to establish whether it contravenes the EU law. Orban added
that Hungary would follow the EC opinion provided it was scrupulously
objective, and insisted that Hungary should be treated like any other EU
member state. Also, that a separation should be made between Hungary’s EU
presidency and Hungary’s internal affairs.

Several MEPs expressed the opinion that the legislation ought to be scrapped
entirely. The new law establishes a Media Council (MC) to ensure “balanced”
reporting, and requires all media types to be registered, including online
media such as forums and blogs.

Miklos Haraszti, former OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media,
explained that there are actually five interconnected legislative acts
introduced in Hungary since June 2010 that were passed in a rush, at the end
of the year, without any consultation.

According to the corroborated legislation, all media (including the
Internet) are bound to provide “comprehensive, factual, up-to-date,
objective and balanced coverage on local, national and European issues that
may be of interest for the general public and on any event bearing relevance
to the citizens of the Republic of Hungary and members of the Hungarian
nation.” In Haraszti’s opinion, the obligation of the registration for all
news providers (including print and Internet-based ) is specifically
forbidden in the Council of Europe guidelines.

The new Hungarian legislation stipulates high penalties, from 90 000 to
722000 Euro for infringements such as the provision of content that may
potentially hurt any community. In order to verify the violations, MC may
access any data, including legally protected information.. Refusal to offer
the required data may bring a fine of up to180 000 Euro to any media

The legislation thus puts the entire media under the power of a single
governmental authority and, according to Judit Bayer, associate professor
of media law at King Sigismund College in Budapest, the law is
“unquestionably a serious attack on press freedom, and contrary to Article 2
of Lisbon Treaty, Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights and
Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

On 21 January 2011, the European Commission sent a letter to the Hungarian
government, giving them two weeks to answer the concerns related to this
law. In case of an inadequate answer, Hungary may face legal action.

“The commission services have serious doubts as to the compatibility of the
Hungarian legislation with Union law,” wrote Vice-President of the
Commission in charge of the Digital Agenda, , Neelie Kroes.

The letter also refers to the provisions of the law that allow Hungary to
fine broadcasters based outside the country for what is deemed hate
speech, as well as the mandatory registration of all media, including
websites, which appear to be incompatible with EU rules.

Orban meets barrage of MEP criticism over media law (19.01.2011)

Hungary’s Media Law Package (16.01.2011)

Hungary’s new law a threat to democracy (17.01.2011)

Hungary’s new law a threat to democracy

EC to inform Hungary about concerns with media law this week (19.01.2011)

EU gives Hungary two weeks to reply on media law (22.01.2011),hungary-reply-media-law.html

EDRi-gram: New media law in Hungary allows Internet censorship (12.01.2011)