February 16, 2024

16.02.2024 – SEEMO Condemns Hungary’s Crackdown on Press Freedom with New Law

On 13 February 2024, the Human Rights Watch (HRW – https://www.hrw.org/) released a statement (https://www.hrw.org/news/2024/02/13/hungary-media-curbs-harm-rule-law) condemning the Hungarian government’s interference with media freedom and pluralism, citing it as part of a broader attack on the rule of law in Hungary. The law, approved by the Hungarian parliament, establishes a sovereignty protection office with expansive powers to investigate individuals active in public life. Critics argue that the true intention behind the legislation is to intimidate and silence dissenting voices, rather than ensuring accountability. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has defended the law, claiming it is necessary to combat foreign interference in the country’s affairs and protect its sovereignty. civil society groups and media organizations contend that the sovereignty protection office will operate with unchecked authority, potentially leading to harassment and intimidation of targeted individuals and organizations. The media groups assert their commitment to continuing their work despite the law’s passage, emphasizing its detrimental effects on media freedom and democratic debate in Hungary.

This legislation adds to existing worries about the erosion of democratic norms and media freedom in Hungary, prompting calls for action from both domestic and international stakeholders to safeguard fundamental rights and uphold democratic principles.

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) continues to monitor the developments in Hungary By establishing a sovereignty protection office with sweeping powers to investigate individuals involved in public life, the government is further tightening its grip on the media landscape and stifling dissenting voices. SEEMO calls on Hungarian authorities to repeal this law.

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is a regional non-governmental, non profit network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in Southeast, South, East and Central Europe. SEEMO members are in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova (with the territory of Transdnestria), Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Türkiye / Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Austria, Italy, Vatican and San Marino have a special status in SEEMO. SEEMO has over 3000 individual members, and additional media as corporate members.

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