Monday

23rd Sep 2019

Hungary to present changes to media law

The Hungarian government has agreed to come forward with amendments to a controversial new media law that has caused widespread condemnation and largely overshadowed Budapest's first month at the helm of the rotating EU presidency.

Following a meeting between EU and Hungarian experts on Monday (7 February), the Hungarian government said it would send a first draft of alterations to the European Commission for analysis by 10 February.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Mr Orban has used his two-thirds majority in the Hungarian parliament to pass a number of controversial measures (Photo: Lassi Kurkijärvi)

"The next step will be to study carefully the proposed changes," Jonathan Todd, spokesman for commissioner Neelie Kroes who handles the EU's media dossier, told journalists on Monday, adding that he hoped the issue could be wrapped up in "weeks rather than months".

Hungary's communication minister, Zoltan Kovacs, said Monday's negotiations had focused on three paragraphs of the media law, relating to balanced reporting, country of origin and media registration, the three areas of objection raised earlier this year by the commission.

Provisions on 'balanced reporting' are in breach of the EU's audiovisual regulation as they apply to media beyond broadcasting, such as video blogs, says the EU institution.

It also believes that rules on 'country of origin' could result in fines on foreign media outlets for non-compliance, while an obligation for all media services to register with the new authority could restrict rights of freedom of expression.

The two sides are now "very, very close" to resolving the issue, Mr Kovacs told the BBC, describing the planned changes as "technical issues".

A new media watchdog which can impose potentially ruinous fines of up to €735,000 on offending media, is not part of the commission's enquiry. Opponents say the media authority, which is entirely composed of members of the ruling Fidesz party, could also force journalists to reveal their sources.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been harshly criticised for seeking to muzzle the press since the new media law came into force on 1 January this year, just as Budapest took over the EU presidency.

Protesters have taken to the streets in their thousands in Hungary, while a number of MEPs greeted Mr Orban in the European Parliament last month by placing tape over their mouths and hanging 'censorship' banners in front of their desks.

Green group leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit described Mr Orban as a "European Chavez, a national populist", while Socialist leader Martin Schulz said Hungary was in danger of becoming a dictatorship.

"Wow, that coming from a German," Mr Orban retorted at a subsequent news conference.

Hungary tops EU anti-fraud investigation list

In its annual report, the EU's anti-fraud agency said it concluded nine investigations into Hungary and found irregularities in seven cases. In total, the agency recommended the recovery of €371m EU-wide.

Exclusive

Brexit row delays financial products transparency review

A European financial regulatory body set up after the financial crisis is at loggerheads with the European Commission over whether to carry out a transparency review of certain financial products. The reason: Brexit.

Commission defends Mercosur trade deal

EU commissioners defended a far-reaching free trade agreement between the EU and four Latin American countries, against critics who fear it will damage European farmers' livelihoods and the global environment.

EU hesitates to back France over US tariff threat

France has passed a new tax on tech companies that will affect US global giants like Facebook. Donald Trump has threatened retaliatory tariffs over it. The EU commission says it will "coordinate closely with French" on the next steps.

EU banks more vulnerable to shocks than feared

Eurozone banks, such as Deutsche Bank, might be much more vulnerable to a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis than EU "stress-tests" have said, according to a new audit.

News in Brief

  1. Doubt cast on new Maltese inquiry into slain reporter
  2. March by Slovak Catholics seeks abortion ban
  3. 600,000 stranded on holiday as Thomas Cook collapses
  4. Egypt: hundreds of protesters arrested over weekend
  5. Global car industry fears no-deal Brexit shock
  6. France: de-escalation between US and Iran priority
  7. Spain demands UK 'reciprocity' on resident rights
  8. Ireland: right Brexit deal is 'not yet close'

Opinion

Why von der Leyen must put rights at core of business

Ursula von der Leyen's in-tray must include those European executives on trial for systematic workplace harassment, the break-up of European slavery rings, and allegations of European companies' abuse in palm oil, including child labour, land grabs, and deforestation.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  2. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  4. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  8. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  10. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  11. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  12. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us