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

Multimedia Obama, Modi Announce Breakthrough on Nuclear Deal

update Deal resolves differences over liability of suppliers to India in event of a nuclear accident, U.S. demands on tracking whereabouts of material supplied to country More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track More

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.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid