EFJ Warns Hungary Over Threats to Media as Parliament Votes on New Law

The European Federation of Journalists today joined

with Members of the European Parliament in opposing a new media bill currently

at the Hungarian Parliament which aims to create a governing body for the

country's media in a process that journalists claim will undermine press

freedom.

"This law draws the media under the power of a body

whose authority and legitimacy are questionable. Its

powers over the whole spectrum of the Hungarian media represent

a serious threat to the fundamental human right of the freedom of

expression," said EFJ General Secretary Aidan

White. "Moreover it foresees heavy fines for media which do not respect

certain 'principles' dictated by the political agenda".

Under the current draft of the bill a newly formed

Media Council, which will act as a supreme governing body nominated by the

government, will have the power to fine newspapers up to 25 million forints

(EUR 89,000) and news websites 10 million, whereas TV and radio stations could

be fined between up to around 360.000 Euro for failing to provide "balanced

coverage", or failing to provided "minimum demand of information" and

"respect of the institution of marriage and family." Such penalties may

be imposed even without litigation in the courts.

If adopted in its present form, with the restrictions

to be brought to effect by the media authorities, the EFJ says the Bill

violates the constitutional right to the free expression of opinion, and -

instead of the court - constrains these rights into frameworks to be determined

only by the judgment of the media authorities.

Today the leaders of the Media Intergroup of the

European Parliament also sent a letter to the President of the European

Parliament to express their concerns over the media situation in Hungary.

The EFJ, its affiliate in Hungary MUOSZ and other

civil society groups in and

outside Hungary, call on the Hungarian Government

to review the draft law and support European institutions for the full

enforcement of the Lisbon Treaty which includes references to fundamental

rights such as press freedom.

For more information contact the EFJ at

  +32 2 235 2215      
The EFJ represents over 250,000 journalists in over 30

European countries