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Hungary unmoved by EU criticism over media law

No press freedom: A news agent looks out from behind a spread of two left-leaning Hungarian dailies which carried protests on their front pages against a new media law in Budapest January 3, 2011. The new media law, which took effect on January 1, provoked widespread international criticism just as Hungary takes the rotating presidency of the European Union for the next six months. The headlines read "There is no longer press freedom in Hungary".

Hungary's government insisted Tuesday it would not bow to outside pressure and rethink its disputed media law, even after the European Commission expressed concerns and said it would sanction Budapest if necessary -- even during the nation's EU presidency, according to

"It isn't necessary to change a Hungarian law just because it is subject to criticism from abroad," Zoltan Kovacs, state secretary for communication, told national radio. "Before criticising, let's wait and see how this law works. We are confident it will be up to the task," he added.

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On Monday, just 48 hours after Hungary assumed the rotating six-month EU presidency, the European Union said it had "doubts" on whether the controversial new press law complied with the rules on media freedom in the 27-member bloc. In a letter to Budapest in late December, European Commission vice-president Neelie Kroes voiced "concerns" and asked for "clarification" on the text, a Commission spokesman said.

Budapest will only respond to Brussels' criticism later this week as the text of the law has not yet been entirely translated into English, Kovacs said. But the European Commission Tuesday emphasised it would not hesitate to sanction Hungary if the law is found to violate EU rules.

"If there's an infringement of community law, the Commission will launch proceedings and the fact Hungary presides the European Union will have no bearing," Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly said. He added that EU legal experts would scrutinise the media law once they had received the translation.

But an EU source said the 2007 EU directive concerned in the matter did not provide for sanctions and was targeted at audiovisual and digital media, as well as e-mail, not the printed press or news agencies.

In any event, the piece of Hungarian legislation would be on the agenda of talks between Hungary's government and the European Commission on Friday, the state secretary for European affairs Eniko Gyori said. "We are preparing for a normal, honest and clear dialogue," she told journalists Tuesday, adding that the Commission would be given a full and official translation of the legal text.

Date posted: January 5, 2011 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 158