Feeds

Europe bites Hungary over media and internet censorship

Content-bash provokes protests

High performance access to file storage

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. ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
Reprieve for Weev: Court disowns AT&T hacker's conviction
Appeals court strikes down landmark sentence
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
prev story

Whitepapers

SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.