Media Censorship in Hungary

 Repressive media censor established in 2011



22nd December
2010
  

The Old Ways...

Hungary establishes an alarming new media censor

nmhh logo Hungary's parliament has passed  a law creating an alarming new censor with powers to monitor and impose fines on the media.

The National Media and Communications Authority (NMHH) will keep watch on private and public media outlets.

Unbalanced coverage or breaches of the rules on coverage of sex, violence or alcohol are now expected to prompt the imposition of sanctions by the new authority. The NMHH will be able to impose fines of up to 200m forints (£615,000; $955,000) on TV and radio stations, MTI reported. Newspapers could face fines of up to 25m forints and news websites 10m forints.

Two independent watchdogs - the OSCE and US-based Freedom House - have voiced concern, saying the law tightens government control over the media. Hundreds of students have demonstrated against the law in Budapest.

Freedom House also warned that it would be a major setback for press freedom in Hungary , saying that the definition of violations is very broad .

Update: President petitioned not to sign the new law

23rd December 2010. Based on article from  rferl.org

Hungary's main opposition has urged the president not to sign a new media law, citing constitutional concerns and widespread international criticism.

The Hungarian Socialist Party asked President Pal Schmitt in a letter to instead defer the law to the Constitutional Court.

Hungary's parliament approved the contentious new law on December 21, which will greatly expand the state's power to monitor and penalize private media, drawing protests from opposition parties and civil society.

Publications deemed to be unbalanced or offensive in their coverage may face large fines.

 

9th January
2011
  

Update: Warning It's On...

Hungarian media censor moves into rapid action

Home Invasion Ice T Hungary's newly established media censor has opened an inquiry into a small private radio station, Tilos, for broadcasting the song Warning, it's on by US rapper Ice-T, Agence France-Presse reported. 

Hungary's new legislation came into force on 1 January 2011.

A letter from the new media authority, published on the radio station's website, said Ice-T's song was gangster-rap and could influence the development of minors in a negative way because it was broadcasted in the afternoon hours. Tilos should have broadcast it after 21:00, it said.

Hungarian websites said the letter recalled the Communist days of the 1960s and 1970s when censors warned against the destructive potential of punk music.

Update: Censors back down

17th January 2011. See  article from  sofiaecho.com

After a public outcry, the Council backed down this week, but radio announcers are concerned that the media authority now watches over their shoulders.

 

12th January
2011
  

Update: Conducting the Opposition...

Hungarian writers and musician campaign against new media censorship law

Mozart Symphonies Nos 15 18 Hungarian writers and musicians have descended on Brussels to add their voices to the chorus of criticism aimed at censorship being introduced by Prime Minister Victor Orban.

The criticism centres on a new media law which came into force on 1 January. Opponents say it will muzzle press freedom and endanger independent media.

Adam Fischer, one of the world's leading conductors, stood down at the end of last year as music director at the Hungarian State Opera in protest at the increasingly heavy and restrictive hand of government: A lot of the attention has focussed on the new law but the problems run far deeper . Even more worrying are changes to the national constitution that are being drafted and the rise of anti-Semitism, homophobia and xenophobia in Hungarian society,

Fischer pointed to the latest attack in which Hungarian pianist Andras Schiff became the butt of anti-Semitic remarks in a national newspaper after he wrote a column criticising new government measures.

Neelie Kroes, the EU's Digital Communications Commissioner, reminded Orban of his pledges to make adjustments if EU experts find the law falling short of full respect of the European values on media freedom . The European Commission is currently examining the text.

 

17th January
2011
  

Update: Orbanistan...

Hungarians take the street to demonstrate against repressive new media law

viktor orbanAn estimated 10,000 Hungarians have demonstrated Friday against what critics describe as Europe's most restrictive media law. Under the legislation, media in Hungary can face heavy fines and sanctions if authorities deem their coverage unbalanced or immoral.

Thousands of Hungarians sang Friday that if they would be a flag they wouldn't wave, or if they would be a rose, they wouldn't flourish.

Hungarian journalists aren't the only people concerned about what critics call Europe's most restrictive media law. Activist Sonja Andrassew of environmental group Greenpeace says she fears the legislation will make it more difficult to criticize environmental policies. We think that the environmental protection is also [about] free press. So if we want to say our opinion about the environment, the global warming or anything we need the press to be free to write down our opinion, she said.

Critics say that with the media law the center-right government is turning Hungary into Orbanistan , a reference to Prime minister Viktor Orban and autocratic Central Asian nations.

 

19th January
2011
  

Update: In the EU Sin Bin...

Hungary's immoral media law is unbalancing the EU

EU flagThe EU''s Digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes told an Extraordinary meeting of the European Parliament's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee that the EU had been in touch with the Hungarian government and had deep concerns about the nature of a new media law, which came into force on 1 January 2011.

The law made those responsible for material published in Hungary - both through traditional channels and online - subject to heavy fines and sanctions if their coverage is deemed to be unbalanced or immoral .

Kroes said that in addition to writing to the Hungarian authorities in December, raising specific concerns regarding their compliance with the EU AVMS Directive, she has also visited Budapest to discuss the matter. She believes that the Media Law may risk jeopardising fundamental rights in a number of ways, including its requirement that all media - including online media such as forums and blogs - be registered, and by making the Media Authority subject to political control through the appointment process.

The Media Law seems to raise a problem under the AVMS Directive because its provisions appear to apply also to media firms established in other Member States, which would be contrary to the country of origin principle, she said.

...Read the full article

Update: Promises

6th February 2011. See  article from  google.com

The European Union said on Tuesday that Hungary had given a clear indication it could change a hotly-contested media law that is embarrassing the bloc as it seeks to promote democratic standards elsewhere.

A spokesman for Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the executive European Commission charged with defusing a row that has overshadowed Budapest's six-month chairmanship of the 27-state grouping, said she had received a reply to queries raised with the Hungarian government.

Jonathan Todd said she had detected a clear indication in today's letter that they are prepared to modify the law if need be and that her staff were eager to quickly discuss technical aspects... as soon as possible.

 

29th January
2011
  

Update: Scrap It...

Continuing protests against Hungary's new media censorship law

hungary parliamentSeveral thousand people protested against Hungary's media law and demanded freedom for the press in front of the parliament building on Thursday.

Head of Amnesty International Hungary Orsolya Jeney called on the government to withdraw the entire legislation or to change it with regard to the freedom of expression and the press, as well as the rights of access to information.

Smaller demonstrations were staged in Szeged, Debrecen, Pecs, and Gyula.

The protests were organised on Facebook.

 

15th February
2011
  

Update: No Pride in Hungary...

Budapest Gay Pride banned over media law protest

Hungary flag Hungarian police have blocked this year's annual Budapest Gay Pride parade with organisers claiming that it was a politically motivated ban.

The Budapest police chief has withdrawn the permission that was granted earlier to the organisers of the 2011 gay pride march, Sandor Steigler, head of the organising Rainbow Mission Foundation, told AFP.

The organisation was preparing a court appeal, he added.

Last week, the organisers of the march applied for an extension to their usual downtown route, which police had earlier accepted. The extension would have taken the march in front of parliament, where marchers planned to protest against Hungary's controversial media law and the upcoming new constitution, both perceived as detrimental to the cause of gay rights, Steigler said.

It was this protest against the repressive new media law that seems to have triggered the Gay Pride ban.

 

15th February
2011
  

Update: Pressing the Case...

Major newspaper takes government to court over unconstitutional media repression

nepszabadsag logo Hungary's largest-circulation national daily has turned to the Constitutional Court over the new media package, the paper said.

Editor-in-Chief Karoly T Voros submitted complaints that the legislation curbed press freedom and freedom of opinion in 16 areas, the paper said.

Among the complains listed, were the new media authority's supervision over print media, powers to impose fines, regulatory powers over new media, and the requirement that reporting must be balanced in the printed media.

 

24th February
2011
  

Update: A Little Less Repressive...

Hungary introduces a few amendments to its widely condemned media law

Hungary flag The Hungarian government put a number of amendments to its repressive media law to parliament Wednesday, with their formal adoption expected next week or in mid-March at the latest, AFP reported.

The amendments, signed by Justice Minister Tibor Navrasics, were drawn up last week after Hungary came under heavy fire from many of its European Union partners.

Nevertheless, the changes -- which covered areas such as balanced reporting, fines, media registration rules and freedom of speech issues -- do not go far enough, critics say.

Four paragraphs will be amended in a law that contains 226 (paragraphs), the deputy editor-in-chief of Hungary's leading newspaper Nepszabadsag, Gabor Horvath, told AFP last week. We are happy to see that four important points will be modified by the Hungarian government following the agreement with Brussels, but we believe these amendments are insufficient, because the basic situation has not changed.

The media representative for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Dunja Mijatovic, also pressed for further action. If the Hungarian government is now going to change the laws, then the media legislation needs to be amended also in light of protecting OSCE commitments such as media pluralism and the free flow of information, she said. I ask the Hungarian authorities to seize this opportunity, and render their media legislation in line with the OSCE commitments that they have signed up to.

 

9th March
2011
  

Update: A Little Less Repressive...

Hungary passes a few amendments to its widely condemned media law

Hungary flag The Hungarian parliament has now adopted amendments to their much criticised and repressive media law passed in December 2010.

The favourable report given by the European Commission following the vote was commented as premature by Reporters Without Borders.

If the dubious notion of balanced reporting no longer applies to blogs, it does still concern other audiovisual media as well as Internet on-demand contents. The law also no longer applies to foreign media unless they are broadcasting to the Hungarian people and are based abroad with the aim of circumventing Hungarian law .

The range of offences punished by the law has been restricted slightly and centred on the concept of incitement of hatred or discrimination. On the other hand journalists must still respect public morality and human dignity - notions that have yet to be defined by the Media Council - or face astronomical fines.

Finally, the Hungarian media will no longer have to get accreditation from the authorities before they start broadcasting. They will have to do so within 60 days of kicking off their operations, however, or face a fine of 3,700 euros.

 

18th March
2011
  

Updated: A Little Less Repressive...

Hungary passes a few amendments to its widely condemned media law

Hungary flag The Hungarian parliament has now adopted amendments to their much criticised and repressive media law passed in December 2010.

The favourable report given by the European Commission following the vote was commented as premature by Reporters Without Borders.

If the dubious notion of balanced reporting no longer applies to blogs, it does still concern other audiovisual media as well as Internet on-demand contents. The law also no longer applies to foreign media unless they are broadcasting to the Hungarian people and are based abroad with the aim of circumventing Hungarian law .

The range of offences punished by the law has been restricted slightly and centred on the concept of incitement of hatred or discrimination. On the other hand journalists must still respect public morality and human dignity - notions that have yet to be defined by the Media Council - or face astronomical fines.

Finally, the Hungarian media will no longer have to get accreditation from the authorities before they start broadcasting. They will have to do so within 60 days of kicking off their operations, however, or face a fine of 3,700 euros.

Update: European Parliament Unimpressed

11th March 2011.  See  article from  monstersandcritics.com

European Parliament logo The European Parliament on Thursday criticized Hungary's changes to its controversial media law as insufficient, following a similar finding by the Organization for Security and Cooperation earlier this week.

A resolution tabled by the Socialists and Democrats, Liberal and Democrats, Green, and European United Left groupings was adopted with 316 votes in favour, 264 against and 33 abstentions.

Lawmakers in Strasbourg called for further review and expressed regret over the fact that the European Commission had only found fault with a few facets of the law.

When the commission doesn't defend basic rights, we will take up the fight, Hannes Swoboda of Austria said on behalf of the Social Democrats.

Update: Demonstrations

18th March 2011. Based on article from politics.hu

Tens of thousands of demonstrators protested Hungary's media law in Budapest on Tuesday, on the day marking the anniversary of the 1848-49 revolution and war of independence from Habsburg rule and the day of press freedom.

Anna Vamos, the protest's chief organiser, said demonstrators were dissatisfied with amendments to the media law and believed they failed to bring the legislation in line with European Union norms. They also protested the media authority's power to arbitrary levy fines on media outlets.

The organisers said the demonstration was the biggest civil protest since the 1989 regime change.

Demonstrations against the media law were also held in the Hungarian cities of Debrecen and Gyula, as well as at the Hungarian embassies in Berlin and Bucharest and at Hungary's Consulate General and UN representation in New York.

 

7th April
2011
  

Update: Hungary Believes in Free Press...BUT...

UN still unimpressed by Hungary's amended media control law

UN logoA U.N. human rights expert has said that EU-requested changes have not removed his concerns that Hungary's media law could be used to limit press freedoms.

Even after amendments to the law made at the request of the European Union, Hungary's media regulations still fall short of the required benchmarks, said Frank La Rue, the U.N. Human Rights Council's special investigator on freedom of expression.

Every time we hear about balanced coverage or objectivity of the press ... it inevitably becomes, with time, a form of censorship regardless of what the initial motivation was, La Rue said. The press is accountable ... to the public and never to the state and much less to the government.

La Rue said he was shocked to hear officials advocating things such as a framework of control for news media. He also criticized high fines that a media council can impose on editors and publishers for vaguely defined offenses, and the limits on journalists protecting the identity of confidential sources.

Zoltan Kovacs, the government's communications chief, said the government supports the ideals of freedoms of the press and opinion ...BUT... that local peculiarities need to be taken into account when those principles are applied.

 

14th April
2011
  

Update: Wilder's Blasphemy Trial Resumes...

But it seems to be a judge that is on trial

Dutch High CourtThe court case against MP Geert Wilders has resumed.

Central to the session was the dinner at which judge Tom Schalken allegedly tried to convince Islam expert Hans Jansen that Wilders should be convicted.

On 3 May 2010, Jansen met Schalken at a dinner. The latter was one of the three judges who earlier ordered the Public Prosecutor's Office (OM) to prosecute Wilders for inciting to hatred and discrimination. The OM itself had concluded Wilders never made any statements that were an offence.

Both Schalken and Jansen were called as witnesses yesterday. Jansen had already caused a tense atmosphere. Schalken had ordered him at the dinner to distance himself from Wilders, according to the Islam expert. Jansen, known for his criticisms of Islam, stated that Schalken wanted to show him at the dinner the ruling in which he ordered the OM to prosecute Wilders. Schalken confirmed this in yesterday's sitting.

 

22nd November
2011
  

Offsite: Hungary...

How not to regulate the press

Index on Censorship logoAt the heart of the new media law is a requirement to protect the audience from insult, threats to public morality, and hatred whether against a minority, or the majority. Its terms are broad and the grounds for investigation by the Media Authority uncertain.

As Dr Judit Bayer points out, the law may restrict any critical statement about any person or organisation . Even defamation of religions is now an actionable offence.The media code embodies a wide set of protections for the audience.

This includes an obligation for broadcasters to warn viewers before the transmission of any image or sound effects in media services that may hurt a person's religious, faith-related or other ideological convictions or which are violent or otherwise disturbing .

...Read the full article

 

24th January
2012
  

Update: Censorship Klub...

Hungarians protest the closure of a popular radio station

klub radio logoThousands of Hungarians took to Budapest's streets this weekend demanding that a radio station be allowed to stay open.

About 6,000 opposition supporters rallied on Sunday to defend Klub Radio, chanting: Down with censorship.

The station may be shut down within months after it lost its wavelength licence in a disputed sale. Its managing director Andras Arato said that it has become the symbol of freedom of speech.

 

15th February
2012
  

Update: Media Control Freakery...

The European Commission voices grave concerns about democracy in Hungary

EU flagThe European Commission has strongly criticized recent laws passed in Hungary, saying they damage democracy and force the media toward self-censorship when reporting on the prime minister and the government.

EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes, speaking after talks with Hungarian Justice Minister Tibor Navracsics, she said the European Union continues to have grave concerns about the current situation in Hungary.

The EU has already opened legal proceedings against Hungary over the independence of its judiciary and the central bank under Prime Minister Viktor Orban. An EU media advisory panel has also denounced the extraordinary concentration of media power under Orban.

But Kroes said the EU's concerns are wider and center on the quality of its democracy and on its political culture. She said that in the latest media developments, authorities are pushing for high music content on radio to quieten political discussion such as that broadcast by private station Klubradio, which has been threatened with a ban. Klubradio has been given a a 60-day license extension, pending its court appeal against the Media Council decision to award the frequency to another bidder.

Update: Klubradio licence refused

15th July 2012. See  article from  en.rsf.org

Reporters Without Borders is dismayed to learn that Hungary's Media Council (NMHH) has rejected opposition radio station Klubradio's bid to keep its Budapest commercial radio frequency, 95.3 FM, although the station had already been reassigned it after going to court. The bids of all other radio frequency applicants were also rejected.

The Media Council's stubborn hostility towards Klubradio only reinforces the view that it is politicized, despite its denials, Reporters Without Borders said. This decision is just the latest stage in a long battle that has included an attempt by the ruling party to use its legislative power to circumvent court decisions. It also underscores the dangers of the 2010 media law, which Prime Minister Viktor Orban is trying to retain in the face of general opposition.

By citing the 'Klubradio judicial precedent' as grounds for eliminating all the applicants for the three frequencies on offer in the capital, this regulatory agency is just making things worse. If it sticks to these ridiculous arguments, it will be clear that it has a political agenda. How far will the ruling party go in its attempts to ride roughshod over its opponents and the international community?

 

 Update: EU Unimpressed...

Hungary still way out of line with its repressive media law


Link Here 12th June 2012  full story: Media Censorship in Hungary...Repressive media censor established in 2011

Hungary flag The Hungarian press law is again drawing fire from the European Union; the amendments adopted by the Hungarian Parliament on May 24 have not placated Brussels.

In an interview published on June 7 in the Budapest weekly Figyelo, Neelie Kroes, EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda and vice-president of the European Commission, said the recent changes failed to address the concerns of the EU and of the Council of Europe. The Hungarian media law remains embarrassing, Kroes added. It only addresses 11 of 66 recommendations made by the Council of Europe without guaranteeing the independence of the Media Authority or clarifying all ambiguities.

The media law that came into force in January 2011 established a Media Council appointed by parliament, meaning it would be packed with close allies of the ruling Fidesz party, with members serving a renewable nine-year term.

On May 25 Dunja Mijatovic, the OSCE representative for freedom of the media, although acknowledging some improvements, criticized major provisions that legislators left in place. She mentioned in particular the ways of nomination and appointment of the president and members of the Media Authority and Media Council and their power over content in the broadcast media, as well as the prospect of very heavy fines that can lead to self-censorship among journalists.

Not only did the Hungarian government not follow most of the EU and the Council of Europe recommendations, but it also introduced new controversial clauses, like exempting the Media Council from concluding contracts for public tender in broadcasting.

 

 Offsite Article: Hungary: Rule of Law Under Threat...


Link Here 17th May 2013  full story: Media Censorship in Hungary...Repressive media censor established in 2011
Hungary flag Government's Damaging Changes to Legal Framework Require EU Action

See article from hrw.org

 


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