Photo by: Youssef Hanna
The European Federation of Journalists today joined with Members of the European Parliament in opposing a new media bill currently at the Hungarian Parliament which aims to create a governing body for the country’s media in a process that journalists claim will undermine press freedom.
“This law draws the media under the power of a body whose authority and legitimacy are questionable. Its powers over the whole spectrum of the Hungarian media represent a serious threat to the fundamental human right of the freedom of expression,” said EFJ General Secretary Aidan White. “Moreover it foresees heavy fines for media which do not respect certain ‘principles’ dictated by the political agenda”.
Under the current draft of the bill a newly formed Media Council, which will act as a supreme governing body nominated by the government, will have the power to fine newspapers up to 25 million forints (EUR 89,000) and news websites 10 million, whereas TV and radio stations could be fined between up to around 360.000 Euro for failing to provide “balanced coverage”, or failing to provided “minimum demand of information” and “respect of the institution of marriage and family.” Such penalties may be imposed even without litigation in the courts.
If adopted in its present form, with the restrictions to be brought to effect by the media authorities, the EFJ says the Bill violates the constitutional right to the free expression of opinion, and – instead of the court – constrains these rights into frameworks to be determined only by the judgment of the media authorities.
Today the leaders of the Media Intergroup of the European Parliament also sent a letter to the President of the European Parliament to express their concerns over the media situation in Hungary.
The EFJ, its affiliate in Hungary MUOSZ and other civil society groups in and outside Hungary, call on the Hungarian Government to review the draft law and support European institutions for the full enforcement of the Lisbon Treaty which includes references to fundamental rights such as press freedom.
For more information contact the EFJ at +32 2 235 2215
The EFJ represents over 250,000 journalists in over 30 European countries