Feeds

Europe bites Hungary over media and internet censorship

Content-bash provokes protests

Intelligent flash storage arrays

A rumble of protest is spreading across Europe in reaction to a new media censorship law in Hungary.

Yesterday, Europe’s Digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes told an Extraordinary meeting of the European Parliament's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee that the EU had been in touch with the Hungarian government and had deep concerns about the nature of a new media law, which came into force on 1 January 2011.

The law made those responsible for material published in Hungary - both through traditional channels and online - subject to heavy fines and sanctions if their coverage is deemed to be "unbalanced or immoral".

Ms Kroes said that in addition to writing to the Hungarian authorities in December, raising specific concerns regarding their compliance with the EU Audiovisual and Media Services (AVMS) Directive, she has also visited Budapest to discuss the matter with the competent Minister.

She believes that the Media Law may risk jeopardising fundamental rights in a number of ways, including its requirement that all media - including online media such as forums and blogs - be registered, and by making the Media Authority subject to political control through the appointment process.

The Media Law "seems to raise a problem under the AVMS Directive because its provisions appear to apply also to media firms established in other Member States, which would be contrary to the "country of origin" principle," she said. The comments largely echoed a similar speech to MEPs she made to MEPs the previous week.

The Reg was first alerted to the issue by Liberal Democrat European justice and human rights spokeswoman and London MEP Baroness Ludford, who told us: “The EU cannot stand idly by while fundamental liberties are being undermined within its borders.”

Debates were organised by the Liberal group in the European Parliament (ALDE) earlier this month.

Martin Schulz, the leader of the European parliament's socialist group, has decried the media law as "not compatible with EU principles”.

The Greens want Hungary to be stripped of its right to hold the EU presidency for the next six months. The EU Commission President has raised the issue with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn has warned that if Hungary does not change the law "it will be very difficult to talk to China or Iran about human rights".

Meanwhile, there were protests in Budapest at the weekend, as an estimated 10,000 Hungarians gathered in the square in front of Hungary's parliament building late on Friday.

Legal adviser to Hungary’s media council Gyorgy Ocsko insists this is not a return to the days of communist control. "This has nothing to do with the old style censorship that prevailed in the communist times. The legislator had one goal namely to make journalists respect human dignity. And this is our aim with the possible fining and possible sanctioning of, let's say, newspapers.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Vikto Orban also denies that the law violates EU Rules, and that he will only accept changes to the legislation if the European Commission can prove that the law is not in line with European standards.

"The text is very European. There is no special regulation, no special Hungarian legislation in this law. All paragraphs and elements of this [legislation] are imported from EU Countries. So I think it is a European regulation.”

While the new law may be bad news for free speech, there was better news this week for rapper Ice-T, whose songs Warning It's On [NSFW] had looked like being the law’s first victim, even though they were broadcast last September.

Following reports that an investigation would be launched into broadcasts put out by Tilos Rádió, which included the Ice-T tracks, the media council last week announced they wre dropping their investigation on the grounds that the radio station’s audience was mostly grown up. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.