Human Rights Watch: Hungarian media face political pressure

Independent media outlets in Hungary practice self-censorship as a result of unclear regulations and declines in public and private advertising revenue, according to a new report published by Human Rights Watch. The May 2013 report, “Wrong Direction on Rights: Assessing the Impact of Hungary’s New Constitution and Laws,” reviews how changes to Hungary’s constitution and media laws are threatening the country’s democracy by weakening its system of checks-and-balances. 

According to the report, Hungary’s 2010 media laws have significantly reduced media independence, in particular for bringing media under the oversight of a politically-linked media regulator with close ties to the government. In addition, “the editorial content of public television has been subject to political interference, and editors and journalists who opposed that interference have lost their jobs as part of a larger number of redundancies justified on the grounds of restructuring.”

To increase media freedom and independence in Hungary, the report recommends:

• Restructuring the Media Authority and Media Council to ensure independence from  the government by establishing a multiparty nomination system;

• Removing provisions imposing content regulation ensuring that media outlets and journalists can report freely without interference;

• Decreasing disproportionately high fines for violations against the media laws by journalists and the media and ensure that rules are clear and foreseeable to avoid arbitrariness by the Media Council when ruling on violations and fines;

• Restructuring the radio and broadcast licensing regime overseen by the Media  Council to ensure transparency and clarity during tender processes by setting out  clear criteria and transparent assessment of criteria, and make clear that the Media  Council has a legal duty to comply with legal rulings regarding tenders

Read full report here.