Hungary’s newly adopted media law will impose potentially wide-ranging restrictions on freedom of expression, Amnesty International warned today. In a move unprecedented within the European Union, the Law on Media and the Freedom of Press, coming into force on 1 January 2011, imposes the same restrictions on all media content, whether broadcast, print or web-based, whether public or privately owned. It also grants broad powers to a new media authority to enforce ill-defined standards.
“The breadth of the restrictions on media content, the lack of clear guidelines for journalists and editors, and the strong powers of the new regulatory body all risk having a chilling effect on the freedom of expression in Hungary,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director.
A newly created National Media and Communications Authority (NMHH) will have the power to impose heavy fines, ranging from up to 35,000 Euros for periodicals to up to 730,000 Euros for broadcast media, for content it considers to run counter to the “public interest”, “common morality” and “national order”. Fines can also be imposed for “unbalanced” news reporting.