Protests over restrictive Hungarian media law
|Publication Date||14 January 2011|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Protests over restrictive Hungarian media law, 14 January 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4d35332b1e.html [accessed 23 September 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Amnesty International has again called on the Hungarian authorities to amend controversial new media laws amid public protests calling for freedom of expression.
Demonstrations against media legislation that imposes restrictions on all media content published in Hungary took place in Budapest and Vienna this evening.
Under the new law, which came into force on 1 January, heavy penalties can be imposed for content deemed not in the "public interest".
"The vagueness of the restrictions imposed by the new media legislation is very concerning and highly likely to have an adverse effect on freedom of expression," said Andrea Huber, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia Programme.
"Facing the possibility of stringent fines or even closure, many journalists and editors are likely to choose the 'safe' option of modifying their content."
Protests against the new media legislation took place on Budapest's Kossuth tér outside the Hungarian parliament this evening, while the journalists' organisation Reporters Without Borders and other Austrian groups staged a demonstration outside the Hungarian embassy in Vienna.
The new law imposes restrictions on all public or privately owned media content, whether broadcast, print or web-based.
The National Media and Communications Authority (NMHH), established by the new legislation, has the authority to punish journalists on the basis of vague concepts such as "public interest", "common morality", "public order" and the "infringement of the obligation of balanced reporting".
Media outlets that breach the law face fines ranging from EUR 35,000 to EUR 730,000, or even closure.
There are also concerns about the independence of the NMHH, whose president is appointed by the Prime Minister for nine years. The procedure to appoint the other members of the NMHH does not ensure plurality.
"The breadth of the restrictions, the lack of clear guidelines for journalists and editors and the strong powers of the new regulatory body all risk placing unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions to freedom of expression in Hungary," said Andrea Huber.
There are already signs that the law is affecting journalists. A presenter and editor of a radio station are currently undergoing a disciplinary procedure for protesting against the measures with a minute's silence on air on 21 December 2010, the day after the law was adopted by the parliament.