Hungarian NGOs to Council of Europe: More Changes Needed to Media Laws

A group of leading Hungarian NGOs have asked the Council of Europe to continue negotiating with the Hungarian Government to make changes to the 2010 media laws. Council of Europe officials and the Hungarian government agreed in late January to introduce several changes to Hungary’s 2010 media legislation that include limiting the term lengths of the Media Council chairperson to nine years. Current rules allow the chairperson to serve indefinite nine-year terms. Hungary’s national public news service MTI reported that the announcement of the proposed amendments concludes the discussions between the Council of Europe and Hungarian officials over key aspects of the media legislation.

In a joint letter to Council of Europe General Secretary Thorbjorn Jagland, five leading NGOs have expressed concerns that the planned measures fail to make any immediate changes to ensure the independence of the Hungary’s Media Council. The body consists of five members, all nominated and appointed by Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party. While the proposed amendments would change the appointment system and term length of the Media Council chairperson, these changes would not take effect until the end of the current board’s mandate in 2019. The civil society groups are urging the Council of Europe to continue pressuring Hungarian officials to amend the current composition of the Media Council in order to ensure the independence of the country’s media regulator in both the immediate and longer term.

The NGOs called on the CoE to pursue the full set of recommendations detailed in its own May 2012 assessment of the Hungarian legislation.