News / Europe

    Thousands Demonstrate Against Hungary's Media Law

    Demonstrators carry a portrait of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban with a crown to protest against a media law they say will turn the country into 'Orbanistan' with the government leader dominating news broadcasts.
    Demonstrators carry a portrait of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban with a crown to protest against a media law they say will turn the country into 'Orbanistan' with the government leader dominating news broadcasts.
    Stefan Bos

    An estimated 10,000 Hungarians have demonstrated late Friday against what critics describe as Europe's most restrictive media law.  Under the legislation, media in Hungary can face heavy fines and sanctions if authorities deem their coverage unbalanced or immoral.

    Thousands of Hungarians sang Friday that "if they would be a flag they wouldn't wave, or if they would be a rose, they wouldn't flourish. "

    The somber song reverberated throughout the square in front of Hungary's parliament building where demonstrators  gathered to protest against a new media law. They are closely watched by police in cars with flashing sirens.

    Under the legislation a Media Council appointed by the center right government can fine broadcasters nearly $1 million, and websites or newspapers over $100,000 if their coverage is deemed unbalanced or immoral.

    Hungarian journalists aren't the only people concerned about what critics call Europe's most restrictive media law. Activist Sonja Andrassew of environmental group Greenpeace says she fears the legislation will make it more difficult to criticize environmental policies. "We think that the environmental protection is also [about] free press. So if we want to say our opinion about the environment, the global warming or anything we need the press to be free to write down our opinion," she said.

    Some media outlets have already been pursued by the new media authorities.

    The voice of Gabor Csabai, the head  of Budapest based Tilos Radio, or Forbidden Radio, can still be heard from a tiny studio in a, somewhat rundown building, in Budapest.

    But his small, independent station has already faced a legal battle with the Media Council after broadcasting a song of American rapper Ice-T, whose real name is Tracy Marrow.

    The Media Council was furious that Tilos Radio aired the rapper's song  "It's On"  in the afternoon saying it could harm youngsters.

    After a public outcry, the Council backed down this week, but radio announcers are concerned that the media authority now watches over their shoulders.

    Tilos radio earlier faced protests, that included supporters of the current ruling Fidesz party, over its perceived anti-Christian messages. Csabai denies these allegations. "What I say is that Tilos radio is an absolutely independent, free radio. Free from any religion, free from any political ideology, free from political parties from financial lines. We are a free, free and independent radio. And honest," he said.

    Critics say that with the media law the center-right government is turning Hungary into 'Orbanistan', a reference to Prime Viktor Orban and autocratic Central Asian nations.

    But the legal adviser of the media council, Gyorgy Ocsko, says the government does not turn the clock back more than 20 years, when Hungary was still a tightly controlled communist state. "This has nothing to do with the old style censorship that prevailed in the communist times. The legislator had one goal namely to make journalists respect human dignity. And this is our aim with the possible fining and possible sanctioning of let's say newspapers," he said.

    The discussion over the media law comes at a time when Hungary is holding the rotating European Union presidency. Officials in Germany have already suggested to take away some presidency tasks from Hungary.

    Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn warned that if the EU does not pressure Hungary to change the law, "it will be very difficult to talk to China or Iran about human rights."

    The EU's executive branch, the European Commission, has made clear it may pressure Hungary to change the legislation.

    Hungarian Prime Minister Orban denies the law violates EU Rules. He has told reporters that he may only accept changes to the legislation if the European Commission can prove that the law is not in line with European standards. "Now we should have a more professional, legal discussion on the text. The text is very European. There is no special regulation, no special Hungarian legislation in this law. All paragraphs and elements of this [legislation] are imported from EU Countries. So I think it is a European regulation," he said.

    Besides the media law, Mr. Orban has also been criticized for using his Fidesz party's two thirds majority to change the constitution and supervise previously independent financial  institutions such as the State Audit Office.

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora