Hungarian media laws spark call for EU-wide regulation of media pluralism

Following an investigation of the 2010 Hungarian media laws, an expert group led by Vaira Vike-Freiberga, the former Latvian president, has published a report proposing the establishment of EU-wide regulations aimed at safeguarding media pluralism and freedom.

Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the Digital Agenda of the European Commission, convened the High Level Group on Media Freedom and Pluralism in 2011 in response to the controversial Hungarian media legislation. During its 15-month investigation, the High Level Group found that many countries, including Hungary, have regulations that inhibit media freedom and diversity. The report by the High Level Group recommends a certain number of EU-wide regulations on media pluralism and freedom.

“The EU should be considered competent to act to protect media freedom and pluralism at State level in order to guarantee the substance of the rights granted by the Treaties to EU citizens, in particular the rights of free movement and to representative democracy. The link between media freedom and pluralism and EU democracy, in particular, justifies a more extensive competence of the EU with respect to these fundamental rights than to others enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights,” the report says. The report also suggests creating EU-wide mechanisms to monitor press freedom.

Kroes said that the report is an important part of the debate on EU-media regulation. “The European Union must be more in that field than a moral compass that points its finger at the violators,” she said, adding that the EU needs “more legal means at our hands” for addressing threats to media freedom.