Sunday

21st Apr 2019

EU concedes it has little power to act over Hungarian media council

The European Commission has signaled that Hungary's new media law may be in breach of the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights, but concedes it has no powers to challenge a controversial media watchdog made up of political appointees.

"As it stands, [EU law] does not include specific provisions on the independence of media regulatory authorities," a spokesman for EU digital affairs commissioner Neelie Kroes told a regular news conference in Brussels on Monday (24 January).

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

  • The Hungarian law contains a requirement for 'balanced' reporting (Photo: GiantsFanatic)

Established at the beginning of this year, opponents fear Hungary's media council could use its ability to impose substantial fines as a means of silencing criticism of centre-right prime minister Viktor Orban and his government.

Budapest insists this is not its intent, pointing to problems in the country's state-owned media, recent controversial television programmes and a former media law that dated back to the Communist era as reasons for the overhaul.

The commission has raised a series of concerns however, despite the restricted room for manoeuvre over the media council.

In a letter sent to deputy Hungarian prime minister Tibor Navracsics on Friday, Ms Kroes suggested the media law may be in breach of the "fundamental right of freedom of expression and information" and a core "principle of proportionality" enshrined in the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The charter is legally binding following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1 December 2009.

Ms Kroes' letter also suggested obligatory registration for Hungarian media, including online forums and blogs, may contravene the EU's Audiovisual and Media Services (AVMS) Directive, while applying the Hungarian law to foreign-based media may run contrary to EU business freedoms.

Budapest now has two weeks to respond to the commission's queries before possible legal action is initiated.

Hungarian government spokesman Anna Nagy said on Monday that clarifications sought by the commission were purely of a "technical" nature, unrelated to "press freedom".

"Our experts are working on a response which is going to be sent in a week's time," she told journalists.

Concern over Hungary's media law has threatened to overshadow the country's term as holders of the EU's rotating presidency during the first six months of this year.

Group's such as the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe have voiced their concerns over the law, while an address by prime minister Orban to MEPs in Strasbourg last week provoked protests and heated debate on the issue.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us