Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] criticized the Hungarian government [press release] on Friday for ignoring recommendations by the Council of Europe [official website] to change its media laws that allegedly curtail press freedom. HRW expressed concern that the media laws' requirement for journalists to register with the national government, as well as a mandate of "balanced" reporting would have a chilling effect on investigative journalism. In the press release, Lydia Gall, an HRW researcher, declared that the Hungarian government's efforts to amend the media laws were insufficient:
The Hungarian government has now made clear that it is not serious about protecting media freedom. The changes to media laws do little to address the serious concerns expressed by the Council of Europe and in some case may make matters worse.The Hungarian parliament, the House of the Nation [official website], approved the amendments to the media laws on Thursday.
Hungary's media laws have come under fire recently. In December, Hungary's Constitutional Court [official website, in Hungarian] struck down [JURIST report] certain provisions of the media laws as an unconstitutional restraint on press freedom. Rights groups had urged Hungary to amend [JURIST report] the media laws. The media laws created 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 law, the government could impose costly fines on broadcasters, newspapers and news websites if their coverage is deemed unbalanced or immoral by the media authority. The Constitutional Court struck down provisions allowing the NMHH to regulate content in print and online media and limiting the rights of reporters to protect confidential sources.