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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches 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.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid