Hungary to consult with EU over objections to controversial media law

[JURIST] Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister Tibor Navracsics indicated Monday that Hungary is willing to consult with the EU over its controversial new media law. In a letter responding to the European Commission's request for more information regarding the law, Navracsics continued to defend the law but said his government would make modifications if it is found to violate EU law. The new law creates the National Media and Communications Authority (NMHH) [official website, in Hungarian], which controls private television and radio broadcasters, newspapers and online news sites. Under the new law, the government can fine broadcasters more than 700,000 euros and newspapers and news websites roughly 90,000 euros if their coverage is deemed unbalanced or immoral by the media authority, whose members are all loyal to the ruling Fidesz party [party website, in Hungarian]. Apart from freedom of expression concerns, the law also appears to apply to media companies both inside and outside Hungary, which violates EU regulations, as broadcasters are only to be subject to the rules of the country in which they are established. Communications Chief Zoltan Kovacs told public radio MR1-Kossuth that Hungary's response would address all the commission's concerns and that the government was open to consultation [MR1-Kossuth report, Hungarian] and change if necessary.

Throughout the month of January, the Hungarian government has continued to defend its controversial law in the face of criticism from the Hungarian media and other EU governments. The law officially entered into force earlier in January, and Hungary has said the law conforms to EU norms and contains passages present in similar legislation of other member states. The state secretary for communication, Zoltan Kovacs, has also told national radio that it is unnecessary to change the law [JURIST report]. The Hungarian Parliament [official website, in Hungarian] approved the law [Reuters report] in December, amid protests and criticism.

 

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