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Changes by Hungarian Parliament to media law must be closely monitored


18 Feb 2011



Today's meeting of the European Parliament's group leaders (with exception of EPP) backed a proposal to postpone the vote to the next part session, but not withdraw a resolution, concerning the Hungarian media law in order firstly to take account of the announcement yesterday in Strasbourg by European Commissioner, Neelie Kroes, that Hungary has agreed to modify its controversial media law in line with her four principal criticisms* and secondly to keep the pressure on the Hungarian authorities to implement the necessary modifications.

ALDE group leader, Guy Verhofstadt said: "The Hungarian Government's acknowledgement of the need to make some changes to its media law is a welcome development and a result of the pressure for change initiated by the Liberal group in early January following concerns raised by sections of Hungarian civil society and the OSCE.  Our action was never politically motivated but driven by the desire to hold all Member States to the Community of values we have set ourselves."

"But we must not let down our guard just yet. Parliament should indeed postpone its vote but not withdraw the text from the table until we have concrete proof that the promised modifications have been carried through in practice. The Commission has a particular duty to monitor this process as well as the implementation of the law.  Parliament should also be kept fully informed of the changes."

"Acceptance by the Hungarian authorities of the need to change the law is also a victory, if still to be confirmed in practice, for the primacy of Community law in asserting EU-wide standards of freedom and fundamental rights over national laws of the Member States. But this episode has highlighted the lack of concrete legal instruments for upholding press freedoms in particular."

weber_90.jpgRenate Weber (PNL, Romania) ALDE coordinator in the Civil Liberties committee and spokesperson on the Hungarian media law drew attention to the outstanding concerns that remain unaddressed by the proposed changes:

"Whilst it is a positive sign that the Hungarian Government have indicated a willingness to modify the four areas of concern outlined by the Commission, Liberals and Democrats remain concerned about other aspects of the Hungarian law which place huge powers of censorship in the hands of governing party appointees and reveal a lack of adequate protection for journalists' sources as well as insufficient provision for judicial review or appeal," she said. "If the Hungarian Government is serious about restoring its credibility in the area of press freedom it should consider a more fundamental overhaul of the law in line with the recommendations of the OSCE."

*Balanced coverage, country of origin, media registration and causing offence.

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