The European Federation of Journalists calls the bill “a restrictive measure that limits freedom of opinion and freedom of speech. It does not meet European standards of diversity and and plurality and turns the clock back to a time when Hungary lived under communism and the shadow of state control of media”.
According the law the new National Media and Communications Authority (NMHH), dominated by people loyal to the Hungarian ruling Fidesz party, will oversee all public news production and its powers will include levying big fines on private media that violate the law.
“Media Council” will supervise public media, including national broadcasters and Hungarian news agency MTI. It involves merging the national telecommunications authority and the country’s media watchdog. It is kind of supervisory bureau, to license and monitor publications, oversee and sanitize editorial content, with power to levy fines on publishers and suspend licenses for repeated violations of whatever it establishes as “appropriate” journalistic conduct. Hungary’s media council could also force reporters and editors to reveal their sources. The new law would force all media, including those on digital platforms, to guarantee “balanced reporting,” and officials would have the power to react when they don’t like what they see, read or hear.
The European Newspaper Publishers Association (ENPA) and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) send letter to Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban:
“The fact that a government-controlled body will supervise what is allowed and what is not allowed in the press,” they wrote, “is a major step back and is contrary to democratic principles such as freedom of press as well as universal human rights.” …”The law would seriously endanger freedom of the press by creating room for a subjective judgment about any individual news story and penalise publishers and editors through government-controlled regulatory bodies. The proposal could dramatically limit objective news media”…”We are deeply concerned that this law poses a serious threat to freedom of the press and would, in particular, have a significant negative impact on investigative journalism.”
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe warned the law would give “unprecedented powers in content regulation to the newly established media authority”.
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn criticised the move saying the European Commission must take swift action against it.
“The plans clearly violate the spirit and the letter of EU treaties,” Asselborn said, adding: “It raises the question whether such a country is worthy of leading the EU.” (Hungary takes over the European Union’s rotating presidency on January 1!?). “It’s a direct danger for democracy,“ Asselborn said.