December 15, 2018

Press Freedom

Hungary

OPC Urges Hungary’s Amendment to “Media Act”

H. E. Viktor Orban
Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
1357 Budapest Pf 6th
Republic of Hungary
Fax: (011.36.1) 268.4800

Your Excellency:

It is welcome news to the Overseas Press Club of America (OPC) that your government is preparing amendments to your restrictive media law, known as the Media Act. We join the European Commission in urging that the law be made compliant with European Union norms “within weeks rather than months.”

As it stands, the Media Act — enacted on January 1, the same day that Hungary assumed the EU presidency — sends a message that your government is seeking to severely curb citizen’s rights to freedom of expression. As noted by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), nearly all of the law’s 229 pages are devoted to restrictions on free speech — and to means of enforcing those restrictions.

The Media Act has wide-reaching authority to regulate domestic and international media, including print, broadcast and on-line. It effectively grants Hungary’s government the power to control all news media. Furthermore, as noted by the CPJ, the act is “fraught with broad and ambiguous terms that are left to the authority alone to interpret and apply. The measure demands ‘balanced’ coverage from all media, for example, while imposing penalties for content deemed ‘insulting’ to vaguely described ‘communities,’ or material considered incompatible with broad ideals such as ‘human dignity’ and ‘public morality’ that are subject to considerable interpretation.”

The law further requires journalists to divulge their sources on demand. Those who fail to comply face fines of up to 50,000,000 forints, more than US$200,000. Measures such as these severely jeopardize journalistic freedom and human rights in your country. We urge you to immediately bring your legislation in line with EU norms.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Respectfully yours,

Abigail Pesta
Jeremy Main
Freedom of the Press Committee 

cc:

H.E. György Szapáry
Ambassador of Hungary to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Republic of Hungary
3910 Shoemaker Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 966.8135

Ambassador Csaba Körůsi
Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Hungary to the United Nations
227 East 52d Street
New York, NY 10022
Fax: (212) 755.5395

H.E. Eleni Kounalakis
U.S. Ambassador to Hungary
Embassy of the United States of America
Szababság tér 12
H-1054 Budapest
Hungary

Maria Otero
Under Secretary of State for Democracy and
Global Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20520