Budapest- Hungary’s new model of media regulation is creating a chilling effect and undermining freedom of expression said an international partnership mission comprised of leading press freedom and media development organizations today.
The partnership mission to Hungary, which took place from November 14th to 16th, included meetings with lawyers, journalists, editors, professional associations, representatives of civil society, the new media authorities, and the government representative to discuss the situation regarding the enactment and implementation of the new media law, which went into effect on January 1, 2011.
“The confluence of a difficult regulatory environment, deteriorating economic conditions, technological change and convergence in media, and a lack of unity and solidarity within the professional community has created a perfect storm that threatens the future of independent journalism in Hungary,” said Aidan White, head of the mission and an expert with the Media Diversity Institute.
Since the legislation was passed in December of last year, it has received widespread criticism from the international community, including the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the Media Representative of the OSCE, the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of expression, and all leading press freedom and human rights organizations.
Key findings of the partnership mission include:
· The media regulation, particularly with regard to protection of sources, is incompatible with European and international law;
· The legislation provides limited possibilities for judicial review of the decisions of the media authority and the media council;
· The forms of co-regulation that have been developed in response to the legislation are not substitutes for self-regulation and are effectively outsourcing censorship with the co-operation of national and international media owners alike;
· The licensing regime in Hungary has the potential to undermine the promotion of diversity and pluralism, which is an obligation under European and international treaties; and
· Questions remain over the capacity of the reorganized system of public service media to provide pluralist, diverse and quality information as a public good.
“We believe that the concerns expressed by the international community remain valid and we commit ourselves to continue to monitor the impact of the legislation in the coming months,” continued Mr. White.
“We further call on the Hungarian government to openly engage in further dialogue with these experts and to consider changes to remedy the significant failings of the current legislation.”
The International Partnership Mission of freedom of expression and media development groups consisted of:
Article 19, Freedom House, Index on Censorship, Independent Journalism Centre Moldova, International Press Institute, International Media Support, European Federation of Journalists, Media Diversity Institute, Open Society Media Programme, the Network for Reporting on Eastern Europe, South East Europe Media Organisation and South East European Network for Professionalisation of Media.