Kroes calls for more changes to Hungary’s media laws

Issues of media freedom in Hungary “are not yet solved,” said European Commissioner Neelie Kroes last week at a seminar on media freedom and pluralism in Dublin, adding that “only a fraction of the Council of Europe recommendations have been implemented.” The Council of Europe’s May 2012 assessment identified a wide range of provisions in the Hungarian media laws that are inconsistent with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Council of Europe recommendations. Hungarian lawmakers plan to amend several of these provisions following consultations with the Council of Europe this January. A group of prominent NGOs have expressed their dissatisfaction with the limited scope of these amendments and have asked the Council of Europe to continue negotiating with Hungarian officials in order to address the full range of the Council’s own recommendations.

In her speech in Dublin, Kroes emphasized that concerns over media freedom are not limited to one member state, citing issues with excessive media concentration in Bulgaria and the challenges of regulating the print press in the UK. “The scale and the issues are not always the same, but this is a debate that rages across the Union,” Kroes said.

The Commissioner called for a pan-EU dialogue on media freedom “in a way that transcends particular cases, and transcends party politics.” According to Kroes:  “What is at stake is citizens’ right to free expression; and the right to benefit from free expression by others. Party politics should not stand in the way of those rights.”