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Budapest bows to EU on controversial media law

Hungary yielded to European Union pressure on Wednesday to alter a new media law to fall in line with EU legislation. Prime Minister Viktor Orban (pictured) said Monday that EU criticism was an attack on Hungary "under the pretext of the media law".

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AFP - Hungary on Wednesday yielded under pressure to change a hotly-contested new media law, the EU said, insisting the amendments will become legal within a fortnight.

European Commission vice-president Neelie Kroes said Budapest had agreed alterations in four areas criticised by European Union partners, covering definitions of balanced reporting, the application of fines, media registration rules and freedom of speech issues.

Kroes said she would now "work closely with the Hungarian authorities to ensure that the agreed changes are now incorporated into Hungarian law and that the revised law is consistently applied in practice."

Her spokesman Jonathan Todd added: "My understanding is that the Hungarian authorities intend to implement the changes using a fast-track procedure within the coming two weeks."

One of the other frequent criticisms of the Media Constitution and Media Act, however, the appointment of a governing party official to police its application at a time when Prime Minister Viktor Orban enjoys a two-thirds majority in parliament, will not change.

There are "no specific provisions in EU law" that would allow Brussels to force this change, Todd conceded.

Orban however said Monday his government had defeated foreign critics of his contested media law, saying that "by launching an attack against Hungary under the pretext of the media law, they questioned Hungary's commitment to democracy."

"However, the government fended off this attack and made the arguments of the attackers of the law ridiculous," Orban said in an address to parliament.

"We do not accept any countries or country groupings as our superiors... Brussels is not Moscow."

The premier faced heated exchanges with critics in the European Parliament when he appeared to set out his government's priorities as EU chair for the six months until June back in January.

 

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