December 20, 2023

20.12.2023 – Concern: Hungary’s Proposed Legislation

On 21 November 2023, Hungary’s government presented a law under the guise of a “defense of sovereignty” to parliament, with the purported aim of empowering a government-controlled body to counter foreign influences perceived as threats to national security. The law entitled “On the Protection of National Sovereignty” was passed in the Hungarian Parliament on 12 December 2023. The new law was passed in the Parliament with 141 votes and 50 agains

The ambiguous language of the new legal regulation raises concerns about its potential use against journalists and NGOs.

The proposed legislation establishes an Office for the Defence of Sovereignty with extensive powers to investigate individuals or organizations considered potential threats. This development follows a consistent pattern of the government’s attempts to undermine civil society and independent journalism.

The legislation avoids direct mention of media, but its unclear language and broad applicability raise concerns about potential pressure on media entities that receive foreign funding and criticize the government. The proposed law establishes an investigative office with the authority to compel documentation and information from any entity. Media outlets relying on foreign funding might face allegations of undermining sovereignty, leading to a stifling effect.

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expresses deep concern over Hungary’s new law and will monitor all developments connected to the proposed regulation,

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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