Annamaria Szalai, the head of the National Media and Broadcasting Authority (NMHH), told MTI that in a letter addressed to Melia, she explains that the testimony before a subcommittee of the United States House of Representatives by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas O. Melia expressing concern about Hungary’s media rules contains misinformation and inaccurate statements, reports Politics.hu.
In her letter, Annamaria Szalai thanked the US official for taking such a special interest in Hungarian media regulation, but said the testimony contained “many mistaken or inaccurate statements.”
Szalai acknowledged that the head of the NMHH has the power to issue decrees under Hungary’s media law, but said these decrees cannot be used to limit the free operation of the media.
Melia told the subcommittee media services could face fines up to “$950,000” for unbalanced reporting, but Szalai said the NMHH has no authority to impose fines for such things. Regulations on balanced reporting have been in force in Hungary since 1996, and similar rules exist in the UK, Germany and France, she added.
In his report to the House Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia, Melia said the replacement of members of a media oversight board “with candidates aligned with the ruling party” was one of “several recent events [that] are cause for significant concern about Hungary’s democratic trajectory.”
At the time the testimony was made, Zoltan Kovacs, Hungary’s state secretary in charge of government communications, dismissed Melia’s remarks, saying they were based on a “lack of information and malicious distortions.”