Press freedom

Hungary agrees to amend controversial media law

Following talks with the EU Commission, Hungary's government on Monday caved into Europe-wide pressure by agreeing to change a recent media law that restricts freedom of the press.

Hungary has agreed to present the EU Commission with changes to its controversial media law by Thursday, after talks with representatives of the EU Commission.

The law, which critics say goes too far in regulating media content, came into effect on January 1, coinciding with the start of Hungary's EU presidency. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was harshly criticized for muzzling the press, and the EU launched an inquiry on January 21, giving Hungary two weeks to respond.

Hungary on Monday agreed to send "a first draft of possible amendments to the media law," according to a Commission spokesman.

Orban remains defiant

Despite caving into pressure from the EU, Orban maintains that the flak he received from the European Parliament was an "insult." He specifically hit out at German MEP Martin Schulz, who said Hungary was becoming a dictatorship.

"Wow, that coming from a German," Orban said at a news conference.

The EU inquiry focuses on possible breaches of the Hungarian law on balanced information, saying its "extensive requirements for media registration…seem disproportionate."

Hungary has also been slammed for creating a media authority that could force journalists to reveal their sources, regulate media content and impose fines of up to 735,000 euros ($1 million). But the authority's role is not part of the EU inquiry.

The introduction of the controversial law caused thousands of protesters to take to the streets in Hungary, and journalists held minutes of silence on some radio programs to show their disapproval.

(Published by DW-World - February 8, 2011)

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