Hungary Passes Controversial Media Law
After nationalizing private pension funds worth $14bn, Hungary clamps down on its media:
The ruling Fidesz party, with a parliamentary majority of more than two thirds, drafted legislation that creates a Media Council elected by parliament. The body’s chairperson will be appointed for a nine-year term by the prime minister, currently Fidesz leader Viktor Orban. […]
The council handpicked by the ruling party will have the power to fine television and radio stations as much as 200 million forints (about €700,000 [close to $1 million]) for coverage deemed politically out of balance. Maximum fines for national newspapers and websites were set at 25 million forints and for weeklies at 10 million forints.
The Media Council will also have the right to access documents before publication. Journalists will have to disclose their sources on matters of national security, the parliament decided Tuesday.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the new law would give “unprecedented powers in content regulation to the newly established media authority.”
Several publications have run blank covers to protest against the law.
This is also happening only shortly after the ruling party stripped the constitutional court of essential functions:
Nevertheless, even the Fidesz-supporting media voiced concerns last month, when parliament voted to strip the constitutional court of its powers to rule on budgetary matters, except in exceptional circumstances.
The government decided to act after the court overturned a retroactive tax on large public-sector severance packages, prompting fears that it might throw out other budget measures that are critical to meeting deficit targets.
Laszlo Solyom, Hungary’s former president, called the legislation “a step in the direction where the constitutional court is no longer a constitutional court”.
Richard Szentpeteri Nagy, a political scientist, said: “[Orban] wants a clear government. The constitutional court is just an obstacle.”