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Confirmation that the Hungarian Internet is at risk comes has been submitted to the European Parliament, by a security organisation which monitors for breaches of free speech in the new East European democracies.

Condemnation of the Hungarian Media Law continued last week with a letter to the European Parliament. The European Parliament's Civil Liberties (LIBE) Committee has been told of a number of serious concerns with the Law. The concerns were raised by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) - an international organisation which monitors security and other issues in the former Eastern bloc - which wrote to the Libe committee last week.

In a letter seen by iptegrity.com, Dunja Mijatovic, the OSCE's Representative on Freedom of the Media is sharply critical of the Hungarian Media Law,

which she says undermines media pluralism and damages the independence of the media in Hungary.

Dunja Mijatovic informs the European Parliament that the new Media Council in Hungary will be able to sanction media, including websites, and argues that such strong regulatory interference can "is unprecedented in European democracies" and it "harms media freedom and can lead to self-censorship within the journalistic community".

Her letter says:

"The following are the most problematic features of the legislation:

- The new legislation undermines media pluralism, a basic OSCE commitment which Hungary, as an OSCE participating State, has to comply with. The Media Authority and the Media Council can sanction content of all media - namely broadcast, print, and online media -, which is unprecedented in European democracies. Such regulatory power endangers content pluralism, harms media freedom, and can lead to self-censorship within the journalistic community"

Mrs Mijatovic is further critical of the level of political control which the Hungarian Media Law will give to the ruling political party.

It seems that the OSCE may have been the first to raise the alarm about the Hungarian Media Law. The OSCE commissioned a study on it last September, written by the Polish academic, Dr Karol Jakubowicz. The study found that the law goes beyond what is acceptable in democratic countries, in particular in its strict regulation and controls on the media, and the limitations that would place onto freedom of expression. In particular, the system for media content regulation, which includes Internet and ICT-delivered media, went 'in its sweep and reach beyond almost anything attempted in democratic countries".

The OSCE study goes on to say that the Hungarian Media Law would introduce a centralised new governance system, which could multply the opportunities for political control and have a serious chilling effect on media freedom. It further accused the law of creating a number of traps which content providers could fall into, putting themselves at risk of sanction. It said the urgent reconsideration of the law was necessary.

Dunja Mijatovic's role is to monitor the specific issue of freedom of expression and provide an early warning signal in the event that she becomes aware of any violations of it.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is a multi-national security organisation born out the Cold War. Its original role was to promote east-west dialogue. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the entry of former eastern European countries into the EU, its role has evolved into one which addresses the new challenges faced by these countries and a forum to promote conflict resolution and dialogue across a wider range of countries.

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This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ 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), MEPs briefed on web sanctions in Hungarian Media Law http://www.iptegrity.com 17 January 2011 .

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About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I am an  independent policy advisor: online safety, technology and human rights. In April 2024, I was appointed as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on online safety and empowerment of content creators and users. I am a published author, and post-doctoral scholar. I hold a PhD from the University of Westminster, and a DipM from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I cover the UK and EU. I'm a former tech journalist, and an experienced panelist and Chair. My media credits include the BBC, iNews, Times, Guardian and Politico.

Iptegrity.com is made available free of charge for non-commercial use. Please link back and attribute Dr Monica Horten.  Contact me to use any of my content for commercial purposes.