Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A journalist can be such a (Buda)pest

We know that the government is no friend of the media in various places around the world. It appears Hungary's can be added to that list.

The government has made the job of the journalist harder through a series of murky rules. Among the critics is the European Union, and a foreign minister of one of its nations wants the EU to work at stopping its implementation

Various free speech and free media organizations also are opposed to it. Students earlier this week protested against the planned legislation that goes into effect on Jan. 1. What's especially troubling is that the government-appointed members of the so-called media council will determine when the new rules have been violated.
The media council – all of whose members were chosen by government parties – would have considerable leeway to interpret the new law and could impose fines of up to €90,000 on print and internet media and more than €700,000 on radio and television broadcasters.
The new code would demand that media outlets pay fines before lodging any appeal – potentially plunging cash-strapped publications into bankruptcy, while another element would force journalists to reveal their sources in cases deemed to involved national security or public safety. (Click here for full story.)
For now, the Hungarian government is saying the right things, suggesting critics are making far too much of the new law:
Budapest has denied that the new law will restrict media freedom. Asked by a reporter in Brussels on Monday if Hungarian journalists who criticize its EU presidency will be punished, Hungarian foreign minister Janos Martonyi said: "I would encourage all of you to violently criticise the Hungarian presidency if you are unhappy with it." (Click here for full story.)
Complicating the political situation even further is the allegation that Hungary has become tolerant of anti-Semitism.

The new media law begins on the same day Hungary assumes the presidency of the aforementioned European Union.

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