Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hungary shuts up press freedom

A new media law, valid from 01.01.2011, gives the National Media and Information Communications Authority of Hungary (NMHH) the possibility to control not only government but also private media and the Internet.

Control means that penalties are to be imposed if the reporting is not in the public interest or meets not public morality. At the level of penalties, the organization has broad discretion, they say. What is defined as general interest remains unclear. Also all public radio and TV broadcasters are to be merged, any journalist will then work for the same agency.

The top positions in the newly formed holding company will be almost all gone to the people of the ruling Fidesz party..

"The rotating chairmanship of the European Union, which Hungary assumes on Jan. 1, will not represent the culmination of a successful story. In fact, the opposite could be the case. Because of its policies, Budapest could now "be in for some serious problems," Martin Schulz, the parliamentary leader of the Social Democrats in the European Parliament said last Tuesday. Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn went a step further, accusing the Hungarian government of violating "the spirit and text of the EU treaties." "The question arises," he continued, "as to whether such a country deserves to lead the EU. If we don't do anything, it will be very difficult to talk to China or Iran about human rights."
A great deal of anger has been building up. The fact that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has just cold-bloodedly pushed through a law that muzzles the press, only a few days before he steps onto the pan-European stage, is just the final straw. It has been a last, and possibly decisive step towards autocracy.

No other European politician will have as much power to implement such drastic measures against critical media as Orbán, whose right-wing populist Fidesz Party has a two-thirds majority in parliament. The new, 170-page law attempts to regulate all television and radio stations, newspapers and Internet sites. It even applies to blogs and foreign media available in Hungary.

At the center of the control mechanisms is a new government agency staffed exclusively with Fidesz members. It has the power to impose fines of up to €750,000 ($983,000) for articles with objectionable content -- and it alone will decide what is deemed objectionable. The staff of public media organizations will be placed under government supervision.

Outraged opposition politicians demanded to know how this differs from censorship in the days of former Communist Party General Secretary János Kádár, and demonstratively taped their mouths shut in parliament. Some Hungarian newspapers have published empty front pages in protest at the law." Link

Now the law had to be signed by the Hungarian President Schmidt Pál at the beginning of this week. News from today morning, Thursday(!):
"Although the expiration of the deadline for publication of media law adopted last Tuesday, regarding the president's decision there is still no news. Offices inquired in vain, I got the answer to watch the Hungarian Official Bulletin...

President Schmidt Pál is likely to have already signed the legislation. This confirms previous activities as well. On his blog he wrote about Turkish politilógus Gabor, who has started his arguments, the constitutional veto number: zero. Political veto number: zero. Pal Schmitt has adopted since taking office nearly one hundred laws, at neither he felt it important to make use of any of the constitutional option. The political scientist remarked that the president signed everything for the time being, we have presented, and in this respect, the sample is created as a new head of state..."LINK
Hungary used Wikileaks as an
argument for its new press law. László Kövér (Fidesz), theHungarian Parliament'sPresident, described the Internet asa platform of "informationterrorism" and
finds it "necessary to find a way to prevent such cases in the future. "Link

stay tuned!

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