HRW: Hungary’s interference with media freedom and pluralism undermines rule of law News
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HRW: Hungary’s interference with media freedom and pluralism undermines rule of law

Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report on Tuesday saying Hungary’s interference with media freedom and pluralism harms the rule of law.

The report, titled “‘I Can’t Do My Job as a Journalist’: The Systematic Undermining of Media Freedom in Hungary,” outlines the obstacles faced by independent journalists and media under the leadership of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. According to the report, since 2010, the ruling Fidesz-KDNP government has actively worked to dismantle media freedom and pluralism by exerting control over the media regulatory body, allowing pro-government outlets to dominate, and exercising direct political control over the public service broadcaster. Independent and investigative journalists encounter significant hurdles in their work, including surveillance, threats, limited access to decision-makers and public information and smear campaigns in pro-government media.

In December 2023, Hungary passed a bill to defend national sovereignty, which reportedly provides “the executive with even more opportunity to silence and stigmatize independent voices and opponents.” While purportedly aimed at safeguarding Hungary’s sovereignty and national security against foreign influences, the bill’s vague wording enables the government to target civil society organizations and independent media by labeling them as threats to “sovereignty” or “national security.”

The lack of media pluralism in Hungary has been a subject of concern for the European Parliament, leading to the triggering of Article 7 proceedings in 2018. Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union allows for the suspension of certain membership rights if a country persistently breaches the fundamental principles of the EU, including democracy, human dignity, freedom, equality, and the rule of law.

HRW called on EU institutions to utilize their legal enforcement powers and advance the Article 7 process in order to protect independent media and freedom of information.

The UN also voiced concerns over freedom of expression in Hungary. In November 2021, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression expressed concerns regarding the freedom of media and expression in Hungary following an official visit. Khan cited issues such as broad government regulatory authority, financial control over media, and limited journalist access to information as contributing factors.