June 20, 2018

Kristina Mackik

Kristina Mackik
Free and professional journalism

There are merely two concerns with the latest amendment of the Hungarian media law: that which has been included and that which has not been included.

The amendments of 19 July 2011 contain no changes concerning those sections of the media law that were strongly criticised by international organisations and European Union institutions, moreover, in certain cases these amendments even aggravate the situation. Major concerns have prevailed with respect to the media law.

Although the amendments refine the language of the law in various places, the amendments continue to curb the independence of public media service providers, and give additional entitlements to the already super-powered Media Council and its president.

The following provisions are unchanged:

that it prescribes content-related requirements for media service providers
there are insufficient guarantees to ensure the independence and impartiality of the Media Authority
applicability of the media legislation to all types of media, including the press and the Internet
excessive fines and other administrative sanctions
registration requirements applicable to press products, coupled with a
lack of sufficient protection of journalistic sources.
Major changes to the legislation:

Fines are getting stricter: from now on they become collectable similar to taxes due, and are considered as public dues. Independence of public media service providers is further curbed: from now on, instead of the Act, the Media Council will decide whether it maintains their respective media services, or changes their system; the Media Service Support and Asset Management Fund will from now on qualify as a business organisation, further curbing independence of the public media service providers, whereby the Fund, supervised by the Media Council, will be engaged in business activities instead of the public media service outlets. (This Media Service Support and Asset Management Fund has already taken over the entire assets and the majority of the employees of the public media service outlets.) The right of the President of the Media Council to issue decrees was significantly broadened. From now on, the licensing of commercial frequencies will, admittedly, be carried out “in accordance with government policy,” pursuant to the decree of the President of the Media Authority.

These amendments deepen the divide between the Hungarian media legislation and basic civil liberties, the freedom of press and the freedom of expression, as well as EU conventions and adopted international standards guaranteeing the independence of public media service providers.

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