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EU commissioner voices worries about media law

European Union telecoms commissioner Neelie Kroes said that the initial review of the controversial Hungarian media regulatory package shows it may be in breach of EU laws on press freedom and broadcasting.

Kroes highlighted three main aspects.

The bill is likely to go against the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) in imposing restrictions on broadcasters registered outside of Hungary, which according to standard practice can only be done in special cases.

The second issue is the passage requiring balance in information from providers, even on-demand sources like blogs, which could constitute a disproportionate limitation to freedom of the press.

And thirdly, Kroes stated that the bill does not set out boundaries for the implementation of the bill, thereby giving regulators excessive privileges.

She also pointed out that the EU is evaluating the matter of the regulating media council consisting solely of government-delegated experts.

“My staff and I have been in touch with the Hungarian authorities over the weekend and earlier today in order to raise specific points on which the media law does not appear at first sight to be satisfactory,” she said.

Deputy prime minister Tibor Navracsics defended the bill against the critique saying the law aims to create a balance between free speech but to also hold media with big impact on public opinion to a standard of fairness in their broadcasting. The media council also released a statement saying the commissioner’s concerns are unfounded. (BBJ)

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