Hungary's New Media Law Faces Opposition in the EU

By: Qichen Zhang on 25 January 2011
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Just three weeks after Hungary took over the European Union's presidency, the Hungarian government is already facing protests over a newly passed media law in the nation. According to Digital Civil Rights in Europe, the approved legislation gives the government the right to "unilaterally judge content material on the basis of broad and unclearly defined criteria," including protection of the "public order." The law gives Prime Minister Viktor Orbàn's party the right to take down media outlets in the country. Furthermore, it also requires media sources to register before publishing.

Countries who voiced criticism about the new law included France, Germany, and the U.K. European Commissioner for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes even traveled to Budapest to discuss the matter personally with Orbàn. The Eastern Approaches Blog on The Economist reported that German newspaper Die Welt wrote that the Media Act is "a disgrace, as it allows the state to bully media outlets expressing a critical view." Carleton History Professor Christopher Adam suggests on The National Post that the law attempts to further blanket Hungary's communist history. He wrote last week:

"The proposed bill on how to deal with the country's past is a stunning example of bureaucratic idiocy mixed with a wish to sanitize the historical record for political purposes. ... As such the government will soon make it possible for affected citizens to remove and destroy original, irreplaceable documents on the country's communist past."

According to Politics.hu, Hungary's government plans to respond to the EU's concerns about the media law with a public letter next week.

For more information, visit ONI's European Regional Overview.

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