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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, 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. 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 17 January 2011 .


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Copyright Enforcement Enigma launch, March 2012

In 2012, I presented my PhD research in the European Parliament.

Don't miss Iptegrity!  RSS/ Bookmark is the website of Dr Monica Horten. She is a policy analyst specialising in Internet governance & European policy, including platform accountability. She is a published author & Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science. She served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee on  Internet Freedom. She has worked on CoE, EU and UNDP funded projects in eastern Europe and the Caucasus. In a voluntary capacity, she has led UK citizen delegations to the European Parliament. She was shortlisted for The Guardian Open Internet Poll 2012.

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