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OSCE Criticizes Old Communist Laws in Hungary

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has criticized what it sees as the arbitrary prosecution of a journalist in Hungary under outdated communist laws.

Journalist Rita Csik was charged November 6 with the deliberate breach of a state secret, under antiquated secrecy laws from 1976. She could face up to five years imprisonment for quoting criminal evidence collected by the police during the investigation of a member of parliament.

The OSCE official for the freedom of the media, Miklos Haraszti, himself a Hungarian, describes the indictment as a serious threat to freedom of the media.

"This is a chapter of the penal code originating from the time in the 1970s when Hungary did not have a free press, didn't have independent courts, it was a nation of state employees and the punishment for leaking state secrets has been unchanged in the penal code and was not aligned with the otherwise very modern law on state secrets," he said.

Mr. Haraszti adds that never in democratic Hungary has a journalist been accused under this law. He says the documents quoted by the journalist were not even marked as classified. The OSCE says it was information that the public had a right to know about.

Mr. Haraszti says the authorities in Budapest acknowledge there is a problem and he is optimistic that they will respond to his criticism positively. Hungary joined the European Union this year and committed itself to a pluralist democracy and media freedom.