Moves by the Hungarian government to tighten controls on the media and seize private pension assets are enraging its EU partners just as the country takes over the rotating presidency of the bloc.
AFP - Hungary on Friday invited regional security group OSCE for talks on a much-criticised new media law, a day before it comes into force and Budapest takes over the European Union's presidency.
"We invite those in charge of the media in the OSCE to Budapest for discussions on the issue," Gergely Proehle, deputy secretary of state for European affairs, told the German radio station Deutschlandfunk.
Although the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE), which had warned that the new legislation "if misused, can silence critical media and public debate in the country," did not react, Germany hailed it as a positive development.
Calling it a "step in the right direction," German Secretary of State for European Affairs Werner Hoyer, told the Hungarian newspaper Nepszabadsag that the announcement gave rise to "optimism."
Hungary has come under intense fire over the new law -- the toughest in the European Union -- which would give a new media authority, headed by members of Premier Viktor Orban's Fidesz party, the right to regulate content of all media, broadcast, print or web-based.
It will also have the right to impose fines for material that "is not politically balanced", to inspect media equipment and documents and to force journalists to reveal sources in issues related to national security.
Radio and television stations can be fined up to 730,000 euros (976,689 dollars) for going against "public interest, public moral and order," or for broadcasting "partial information," without clearly specifying what constituted an infringement.
Amnesty International had also warned that the law could be hamstrung by "arbitrary application and political interference in the editorial policies of media outlets."
Date created : 2010-12-31