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European Commission  to examine Hungarian Media law.  Changes  will be required if  the law  breaches fundamental rights.


Speaking this morning at a European Parliament hearing organised by the Liberal group, European Commissioner  Neelie Kroes said that the new Hungarian Media law "seemed to raise a problem under the AVMS directive" and risked breaching fundamental rights in a number of different ways.


In a strong speech in which she reiterated Europe's commitment to

freedom of expression, Commissioner Kroes  saidthat the European Commission is going to make a legal assessment of the law. The Hungarian government has agreed to make ‘adjustments' to the law if the Commission finds that is in breach of fundamental rights or any other area of EU law.


The problem concerning  the AVMS (Audio-visual Media Services directive) implementation appears to relate to the country of origin principle. This is a key plank in the EU policy for a single market in audio-visual (television, radio and video) services. The Hungarian law tries to take jursidiction over services based outside Hungary, which would breach this principle.


There is also a problem that the Hungarian Media law requires all media - including all audio-visual media - to be registered. The Commission will be looking into this.


From my own examination of the law in translation, the registration requirement even extends to websites, specifically news websites,  those connected to offline publications or businesses, and those carrying video content, although it is not clear whether non-commercial news or video sites would have to comply.


However, it is interesting that Commissioner Kroes raised freedom of expression as a separate issue from the AVMS, and indicated that her DG will also be examining the Hungarian Media law on this basis too.


"the new Media Law raises broader political questions concerning freedom  of expression.  Freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of our  democratic societies, recognised in the European Treaties and in the EU Charter of fundamental rights."


Commissioner Kroes wrote to the Hungarian authorities before Christmas, asking for a translation of the law. Since then, she has paid a personal visit to them in Budapest, to discuss the law with the relevant Ministry. The President of the European Commission has also raised the matter with the Hungarian Prime Minister.


Mrs Kroes was speaking today at the ALDE group hearing on Freedom of the Press in Hungary .


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This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. It may be used for non-commercial purposes only, and the author's name should be attributed. The correct attribution for this article is: Monica Horten (2011) EU: Hungarian Media law may pose risk to free speech 11 January 2011







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