EFJ Tells Barroso: Defend Free Speech and Media Rights in Hungary

As leading

European Union (EU) officials prepare for a mission to Hungary, the European

Federation of Journalists (EFJ) today urged President Manuel Barroso and his

team to analyse and change the country's controversial new media law which the

Federation claims is a breach of European law and violates principles enshrined

in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The EFJ

says the EU must examine the law and its implementation, not just regarding

technical criteria as covered by the Audiovisual Services Directive, but how it

fits with the Fundamental Rights Charter.

"We are

convinced that it will be necessary to launch an infringement procedure against

Hungary under Article 6 of the EU treaty, if the Hungarian government does not

radically change the law as in place now," says the EFJ in its letter to

President Barroso.

Last month

the EFJ warned that the law could expose journalists and media to extensive

fines should they refuse to disclose their sources or if they publish content

judged inappropriate or not "balanced" by a new media council of the Hungarian

Media Regulatory Office.

"In effect,

state bureaucrats and political representatives have been made the new

editors-in-chief of Hungarian media," said Arne König, the EFJ President, "It

is absurd and completely inacceptable for any democratic country."

The EFJ

believes that it is not only the principle of journalism as a public good is at

stake in this matter, but also the credibility of the EU as a political institution

defending human rights.

The

legally-binding Charter of Fundamental Rights, which also covers media

pluralism and free expression in its Article 11, is part of European primary

legislation. The Commissioner responsible for the Charter Viviane Reding says

it "is the EU's own ambitious bill of fundamental rights".

The EFJ has

welcomed a statement by President Barroso yesterday that "the freedom of media

is for us a sacred principle. It's a fundamental principle", but the Federation

says journalists and media around Europe expect EU leaders take a stand in

support of media rights and to seek from Hungary assurances that they will

change the law and guarantee the citizens of Hungary their rights to free

expression as set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The EFJ is

strongly supporting its affiliate, the Hungarian Association of Journalists, in

their demand for the media law to be suspended immediately while the EU carries

out an official investigation into the law and its potential impact. They then

expect changes to be made before the law is put back on the statute book.

 

Enclose letter to President Barroso

Please join

the petition now against the new media law in Hungary!


For more

information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 02


The EFJ represents over 250,000 journalists in over 30 European countries.