Hungary agrees to change controversial media law

[JURIST] Hungary agreed Monday to change its controversial media law [text, PDF] following negotiations between Hungarian and EU representatives. The new law, which controls private television and radio broadcasters, newspapers, and online news sites, has been criticized as being too restrictive of freedom of expression. Last month, European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes challenged the legality of the act [statement, text] under EU law, specifically provisions that apply to media originating in countries other than Hungary, regulate media beyond simple broadcasting and require media outlets to register with a new authority. Hungary's Communication Minister Zoltan Kovacs said that officials will address the problems noted by the European Commission and change the text to make the media law more clear and precise. The Hungarian government plans to revise the text and submit changes [DW report] to the law on Thursday.

Hungary's parliament passed the new media law last December amid protests and criticism. The law took effect on January 1, 2011, the same day the Hungarian government assumed the presidency of the EU. Despite criticism, the Hungarian government initially defended [JURIST report] the law, which created the National Media and Communications Authority (NMHH) [official website, in Hungarian]. Under the new law, the NMHH can fine broadcasters more than 700,000 euros and newspapers and news websites roughly 90,000 euros if their coverage is deemed unbalanced or immoral by the media authority, whose members are all loyal to the ruling Fidesz party [party website, in Hungarian]. The law has been harshly criticized [Daily Mail report] by members of the media, as well as other European governments, as being too restrictive of free expression.

 

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