January 5th, 2011

Comment on Hungary’s new media law (English-language copy)

[Editor’s Note: We’ve just uploaded the official version of Hungary’s new media law to document-sharing website Scribd, which is embedded below. Readers are encouraged to review the text, which totals nearly 200 pages, and leave any thoughts or insights in the comments below. Note that we will keep this entry posted on the front page for at least the next few days.]

Follow Politics.hu on twitter at @politicshu.
Topics
Share
Please note that due to a large volume of trolling and false abuse flags, we are currently only accepting comments from logged-in users.
  • Anonymous

    There are smiley faces in the text of oaths near the
    end.

  • JanosHunyadi

    By the end of Article 1, I’d read enough to judge
    this a poor piece of legislation. The leglislation
    really does appear to aim at controlling the media
    across Europe! By Article 24 it was clear that it
    sucks big time. Article 24 (1)(a),(h): The
    commercial communication broadcasted in the media
    service may not infringe upon human dignity, may
    not infringe upon the dignity of a national symbol
    or a religious conviction. The mind boggles at
    what could be deemed to infringe upon all those
    dignities.
    So we’ve got 6 months to get all our infringing of
    dignities of our chests. Hmm, let me start with…
    Mr. Orbán your nose is all wonky (would breach
    Article 24 1a: infringes upon Mr. Orbán’s human
    dignity)
    The Hungarian flag is a just the Italian flag
    lying on its side (would breach Article 24 1h:
    infringes upon the dignity of a national symbol)
    There is no God (breaches Article 24 1h: infringes
    upon the dignity of a religious conviction)

  • Farkas László

    I wonder how soon and how vigorously this legislation is going to be challenged in the courts. Such a law raises seperation of power issues as well, as there has to be some way to appeal the decisions of the government’s media censorship body.

  • Elle

    ‘So the EU doesn’t even know what’s in the media law, they just oppose it on principle?’
    EU Schmeu at January 4, 2011 4:14 PM
    Probably … although the registering of media products requires disclosure (Art 46 and 47) of the identity of the applicant. That is, no secrecy can now surround media ownership. Media owners do not like this. The EU is batting for them, I should think.
    It is very funny that the free-flow of derogatory remarks has suddenly stopped dead in the international press since the publication of the English translation of the Hungarian media law.
    And there is no sense in prattling on about ‘separation of powers’: the Media Council is an autonomous body. It is not a government body, nor is it a censorship body; it is a regulatory body. Obviously, it has to abide by its own charter. To the extent that it does not, it is open to legal suit.

  • It’s worth noting that this isn’t even a full translation. Certain choice passages have been left out: http://mandiner.hu/cikk/20110105_hianyos_a_mediatorveny_forditas
    Of particular note, is the one detailing when this law will come into effect i.e. after the EU presidency has left town.

  • Farkas László

    I’m not clear on whether this law applies to a website of news and opinion such as this one, as I have not found specific mention of web publishing (So far). The law appears crafted with no thought or mention of the internet, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be included. What is mentioned is “media services, media content providers” and broadcasters.
    The law applies if the majority of your administration and staff is located in Hungary (Part I, Article I). It can also apply to foreign media outlets if they have a satellite hookup with Hungary. (Article I, Section 3), or are “aiming” at a Hungarian audience (Article I Section 5)! These provisions must have the world media outlets up in arms, as it exposes them and their personnel to legal process and penalties in Hungary.
    Putting readers and wiewers on notice of possible offensiveness is also required (Article 14) as well as the protection of children (Article 9) Extending this legislation to this website would require users to click that they are not minors and that they see a warning that what is to follow may be offensive.
    Can individuals get nailed? Yes! (Article 2 Section 3), including “viewers and readers” (Article 2 Section 5)! Posters from abroad can also be targeted, as the act applies to people who are reaching a Hungarian audience.
    This should give ALL of us pause! Whatever our views, we are all vulnerable under this legislation.

  • Farkas László

    Ultimately it is Hungarians who will have to live with this law. The legislation gives broad discretion to this media body to find offensiveness. How serious the government is going to be in cracking down on this remains to be seen. That the act may apply not only to broadcasting but web or other publishing is going to be resisted by many and may produce a new dissident class.

  • PiP

    Well spotted Van, you’re right this is not a full translation. Our new insect overlords have seen fit to not translate the most embarrassing parts of this irresponsible and democratically damaging piece of legislation

  • Rado

    200 pages law ? Holy Moses ! Welcome to Orbanistan.
    How about a single line :
    –(US) Congress shall make no law respecting an
    establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free
    exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of
    speech, or of the press.

  • Farkas László

    Another potentially illegal practice under this legislation could be the embedding of a video that violates the broadcasting provisions of the statute into a webpage. Any organization, political party, or person who maintains a website that uses newsclips, youtube etc. that are in violation, are themselves in potential violation, facing fines as well as an order to remove the offending clip. Any outlet can be affected and it’s owners fined.
    There comes a point where I think there is too much uncertainty caused by an overly broad law, concern about how it’s going to be implemented and how much of a chilling effect it’s going to have on expression. What are we going to do when we disagree on this agency’s findings of what is or is not offensive, obscene etc and they start coming at you with heavy fines?

  • Farkas László

    The penalties are defined in Chapter 5, Article 187. They run from 3,000,000 to 200,000,000 HUF, depending on how bad you’ve been and how big a fish you are. (I assume this is on a per case basis?) This agency also has the power to suspend your ability to reach your audience with a shutdown that can last from a few hours to a week. Permanent shutdown is also mentioned. They can also make you post notice of an investigation by the body on your website.

  • PiP

    Thank you László. You are a credit to Hungary and the true spirit of Hungarians, of whatever ethnicity, religious or political persuasion.

  • Farkas László

    The most controversial part of the act is Article 24, dealing with “Commercial Communications”. Media services “may not infringe upon human dignity” (We never do that around here!) (Section 1a) and “may not contain and may not support discrimination on grounds of gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, philosophical conviction, physical and mental disability, age and sexual orientation.”(Section 1b) Much of this is the usual PC, but adding “human dignity” and “philosophical conviction” to the list of cop responsibilities, can have a really chilling effect on expression. Such standards are vague and there is no telling where enforcing them can lead to.

  • rado

    “Such standards are vague and there is no telling
    where enforcing them can lead to”…
    ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a
    scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to
    mean — neither more nor less.’
    ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make
    words mean so many different things.’
    ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to
    be master — that’s all.’

  • Elle

    ‘Can individuals get nailed? Yes! (Article 2 Section 3), including “viewers and readers” (Article 2 Section 5)! Posters from abroad can also be targeted, as the act applies to people who are reaching a Hungarian audience.
    This should give ALL of us pause! Whatever our views, we are all vulnerable under this legislation.’
    Farkas László at January 5, 2011 3:40 PM
    It is a pity that people unpractised at reading statutory law will go ahead and interpret it anyway. Note the wording of art. 2(5):
    ‘IN CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES [my emphasis] stipulated herein, this Act shall apply to the viewers the listeners or the readers …’
    ‘Certain circumstances’ refers to the broadcasting of proscribed materials (snuff movies, pedophile sites, etc.), and to the willing receivers of those broadcasts. So this provision need give no-one pause, except those given to listening to, viewing or contributing to proscribed broadcasts. Every civilised legislature has a law in place to this effect.
    Admittedly, ‘stipulated herein’ is awkward language here. It means to refer to ‘certain circumstances’, but can be read to mean ‘stipulated in this Act’. But the latter is not the intended meaning. This much is clear in the Hungarian text.
    ‘It can also apply to foreign media outlets if they have a satellite hookup with Hungary. (Article I, Section 3), or are “aiming” at a Hungarian audience (Article I Section 5)! These provisions must have the world media outlets up in arms, as it exposes them and their personnel to legal process and penalties in Hungary.’
    Farkas László at January 5, 2011 3:40 PM
    Well, well! So Hungary is presuming to have in place a law that pretty much every country has in place to protect itself against foreign interference. (An obvious case: German ‘holocaust-deniers’ whose communications are available to the German public.)
    ‘Putting readers and wiewers on notice of possible offensiveness is also required (Article 14) as well as the protection of children (Article 9) Extending this legislation to this website would require users to click that they are not minors and that they see a warning that what is to follow may be offensive.’
    Farkas László at January 5, 2011 3:40 PM
    So what? This legal requisite exists, pursuant to EU law, in all EU countries, and, of course, in most other developed countries.

  • Paul

    “”A Hungarian diplomat confirmed to Dow Jones today that sections were left out because they are the technical and temporary portions of the law.
    “We decided to translate first the main part of the law,” they said, given that the request for more clarity on the law came the day before Christmas Eve on 23 Dec.
    “This was left out because of the heavy work load during the Christmas period, but this is on the way as soon as the translators are finished.””
    Dear God, they may well have said “We did do the homework but it’s not here, Sir, because the dog ate it.
    They are not submitting an essay to be corrected by Feri Bacsi’s language school, this is highly important legislation going to the very top of the EU.
    Like we said on another thread, I think it’s the downright incompetence that’s becoming the most worrying aspect of this whole episode. They, and Hungary by association, are in danger of becoming the laughing stock of Europe.

  • Farkas László

    Dear Rado!
    I so liked that submission of yours, because it whimsically resonates with the experience and memory of past regimes, especially for the older Hungarians! Indeed, the more authoritarian the regime, the more dangerous it was to commit crimes of expression. The boundaries of acceptability as well as the meaning of things was decided for you by the rulers. That’s where the last part comes in- about “being master”…

  • Farkas László

    We can interpret this whole thing as we like; maybe I read it “right” or maybe I didn’t, but in the end we won’t know the meaning and impact of the law until it takes effect and a pattern develops of enforcement. What I did want to do was get the focus and discussion going on certain of it’s provisions. We do have to ask why both Hungarian and foreign media are against this law.
    Maybe nothing will change, but it’s still a law with heavy fines that hangs over the heads of people, and one that can be invoked for selective reasons, reasons that can be personal, vendetta or political. This committee could be influenced in a number of ways.
    I just wonder if all of this controversy will affect this webpage. Personally, I don’t know, but don’t mind me if I ask. This website often features commentary that is in violation of those PC-ish statutory guidelines; will the continued hosting of such opinion by a commercial webpage be allowed?

  • rado

    Glad that you liked it, Mr.Farkas.
    Yes, the older guys -who have actually lived in a
    tyranny (the communist regime)- know from experience
    how such a system looks and how it works.
    They have their “radars” set on “early warning”
    since quite young, it was a matter of survival back
    then. It may become again as Orban/Fidesz pushes
    further to consolidate the one-party political
    system in Hungary.

  • Elle

    …. but adding “human dignity” and “philosophical conviction” to the list of cop responsibilities, can have a really chilling effect on expression. Such standards are vague and there is no telling where enforcing them can lead to.
    Farkas László at January 5, 2011 5:05 PM
    ‘Human dignity’ is a very well litigated term in the area of international human rights law. It is vague only to people not familiar with this body of law.
    Art. 24(b) provides that commercial communication ‘may not contain and may not support discrimination on grounds of gender, race or ethnic origin, nationality, religion, or philosophical conviction, physical or mental disability, age or sexual orientation’.
    So why select ‘philosophical conviction’ from this list? That is neither less nor more vague than ‘race’ or ‘religion’, surely. And, in any case, the key word here is ‘discrimination’. Simply enough, nothing more is required by this provision than that commercial communications not be couched in a manner that discriminates in terms of the concepts listed. That there may not be discrimination in these areas is again well established EU law against discriminatory commercial practices.

  • wolfi

    Can someone poit us to a condensed version of this law ?
    There are so many aspects here, for example:
    “Article 15
    During a state of distress, state of emergency or state of extreme danger, or in the event of the unforeseen invasion of the territory of Hungary by foreign armed groups, or in connection with operations for the protection of the nation’s territory by air defence and air forces of the Hungarian Army, Parliament, the Defence Council, the President of the Republic and the Government, as well as the persons and organizations defined in other acts may order the media service provider to the extent necessary to publish, free of charge, any public service announcements in with the existing state of affairs or situation in the prescribed form and time, or may prohibit the publication of certain announcements or programmes.”
    I know that in many countries the president or someone else can declare a “state of emergency” but who declares a “state of extreme danger” ?
    What about “the unforeseen invasion of the territory of Hungary” ?
    If the invasion is not unforseen, then what ?
    A lot of “hidden gems” in there …

  • Farkas László

    Another discussion point:
    Can this law affect what political parties can or can’t say through the media? The law puts the burden of compliance on the media carrier, who in turn could tell a party that it’s ads or message will have to change or not be broadcast. Will an expression like “Gypsy crime” become “verboten” for broadcast and publication? Stay tuned and find out!

  • Elle

    Or will pigs now fly? (Fool.)
    ‘They, and Hungary by association, are in danger of becoming the laughing stock of Europe.’
    Paul at January 5, 2011 6:11 PM
    Or, more correctly, people with seriously challenged powers of comprehension like yours are hoping that this is the case. Try to come to terms with the fact that only the substantive-law part of the new media law (not the orienting nor the interim part of it) was translated. Read this carefully:
    ‘Origo.hu inquired at the state secretary responsible for government communication why these parts have not been translated, but it has received no answer yet. The media watchdog, however, issued a statement after the website published its report, saying the translation covers only the most essential part of the law and the sections on temporary measures was skipped because these are not necessary to understand the law. It said the translation of the missing parts is underway and each will be sent out once complete.’
    http://www.portfolio.hu/en/cikkek.tdp?k=2&i=21514

  • American in Budapest

    Elle,
    Frankly, you are full of shit.
    I suggest the Hungarians follow the American 1st amendment and maximize free speech subject to minimal restrictions.
    This should keep everyone from Stalinists advocating a Proletarian Dictatorship to the Little Fascists on this message board happy.
    After all, free speech is about protecting the opinions of those are not in the majority. It is about protecting unpopular speech.

  • And if not the First Amendment, then for sure the
    Second Amendment. 🙂

  • Farkas László

    1)Would the new media law allow criticism of:
    Zionism
    Israel
    Gypsies
    Jews
    anyone else for that matter?
    2)In the case of the media carrier, is there a difference between editorial opinion vs. reporting? Can you air a newsworthy film clip that has prohibited content, in the name of journalism, or is that “tilos”?
    3)How about documentaries that deal critically with various public figures, with cults, extremists and any fringe group? Any of these people can bring a complaint to the board, alleging insult and unfairness to their tradition, ethnicity or school of thought. A TV channel airing a science documentary about evolution may have to allow equal time for a creationist to make their argument.
    4)will the public airing of nationalist symbols be allowed? To air the map image of the 64 county Hungary might be taken as a provocation by some, ditto for maps of the 1941 Hungary, the Arpad flag, Turul etc. Some may object to calling our first king “King Stephen”, while others will object to “Saint Stephen”! Will questioning Trianon be a provocation? Wouldn’t you like to find out!
    Someone’s always going to be hurt and pissed off about something or another, and this new agency amounts to a big board of complaint, with a large annual budget.

  • Elle

    Oh, tee hee! Mártonyi has revealed the intended application of the New Media Law:
    “In the last couple of years, unacceptable language was spreading in different media or even on websites,” Mr Martonyi told a group of Brussels-based reporters. “This is basically an anti-Semitic and a racist language. This language goes against human dignity, and here [in the law] you have a limit against freedom of speech and freedom of the press.”
    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/5f0b30aa-18fc-11e0-9c12-00144feab49a.html#axzz1ACC2fEcx
    Now watch the international press take this as a promise that Népszava, ATV and fellow travellers will be safe, and only kuruc.info will be restrained. Watch also for a rapid change of attitude to this law in the international media.

  • Paul

    Elle,
    “The media watchdog, however, issued a statement after the website published its report, saying the translation covers only the most essential part of the law and the sections on temporary measures was skipped because these are not necessary to understand the law.”
    You seem to be missing the point here.
    A Media “watchdog” which is under the spotlight has sent a translation missing pieces they and I stress the “they” deemed “not necessary to understand the law” missing. Not see why that leaves them open to ridicule-suspicion?

  • Elle

    Try to understand, Paul: the law was published in entirety. The temporary (interim) measures are just that. They were not translated for shortage of time. They do not form part of the substantive law.
    As it is, the translation was done in an amazingly short space of time, presumably to silence uninformed speculation about its content. The temporary measures have no bearing at all on the content. There is nothing ‘suspicious’, or in any way untoward, here. In any case, even the interim measures will be translated shortly, just to set your sorts of misgivings to rest. There is no big deal, here.

  • Freedom

    “And if not the First Amendment, then for sure the Second Amendment. :)”
    You know why there’s a Second Amendment? In case the government fails to follow the first one.
    If you don’t have a gun, freedom of speech has no power.

  • DoubleH63

    @American in Budapest “I suggest the Hungarians follow the American 1st amendment and maximize free speech”
    I don’t remember you championing for the American 1st amendment last April when the Hungarian Parliament passed a certain law that can punish you up to 3 years of prison.

  • justasking

    @ Double, Double,
    “I don’t remember you championing for the American 1st amendment last April when the Hungarian Parliament passed a certain law that can punish you up to 3 years of prison.”
    I seriously hope you don’t think this pinhead is going to answer you…do you?

  • Paul

    Elle,
    Again, the point I would make is how this plays in the international media re the credibiility of the government. I have’t read the omitted admendments, so I’ll take your word for it that there is nothing sinister contained therein.
    However… can you not see the PR problem with this? Huge international outcry over law, now for well over 10 days. Government (belatedly) replies with its translation. Website subsequently (note: not the govt) points out “er… that’s not the full translation”. Govt replies “Oh yeah, don’t worry about that…”
    Re the time taken for the translation, I don’t know if you saw the government Eng lang response to criticism,the one which was published last week, in full in the Economist blogs and reported elsewhere. That wasn’t a 5 minute job, somebody working for the government has systemically gone through all the foreign press articles and replied, in English, to the criticisms made. Problem was that at stage the govt hadn’t made the translation available for interested international sources to confirm the arguments.
    Again, poor press/management, completely incompetent
    What I would have done, as soon as the story broke:
    1. Had translators working day and night to get the English version out before the story took legs on its own without the relevant factual data.
    2. Made sure any translation was factual and full.
    It’s not rocket science.

  • vidra

    Ooh! Does this mean that using Hungary’s pre-Trianon map outside its historical context (on bumper stickers, for example) can be banned for being offensive to Hungary’s 30-odd million neighbours?

  • Farkas László

    Dear vidra,
    The short answer to your question is- maybe!
    Under this act, “anyone” can issue to the “Media Council” what is called a “notification”, which is double talk for a complaint or petition:
    “The Notifier” (Chapter IV, Article 145 (1))
    “Anyone…may lodge a report addressed to the Authority in matters falling within the scope of responsibilities and competance of the Authority.”
    I haven’t found any restrictions in the act (other than clients of the media outlet), which means anybody, anywhere(!) can become a gadfly in the sides of Hungarian TV. The “Council” then takes this “notification” and then starts proceedings against the outlet.
    To get back to your question, the MC would then be guided by Article 24, which gives the whole list of criteria. The act gives broad discretion to people who want to allege insult, and so the permissability of publicly airing a map
    of 64 county Hungary is almost certainly going to be one of the issues on the docket of this new agency. The means for someone to launch such a complaint exist within this act; what remains to be seen is how this council would rule on such a matter.
    This law isn’t just a list of “thou shalt not’s”, it sets up an agency and administrative law tribunal, which has the authority to hold proceedings that can run for 40-70 days (Article 151), during which time the defendant might have his business shutdown while the matter is being decided. The fines can really add up too!

  • Farkas László

    This legislation combines elements of government oversight as well as mob rule. Any disgruntled member of the mob who feels he and his kind have come up short, are misunderstood, misrepresented or insulted and who feels that this has not been properly represented, can now turn to a brand new agency at the ready to process any grievances. The media carrier or outlet stands to be embroiled in litigation and administrative review anytime any person files a “notification”.
    Under such a law, the only rational thing broadcasters can do is to bland down their broadcast content, impose upon themselves a rigorous PC and self censorship, all with the objective of keeping out of the Media Council’s chambers and staying clear of their fines.
    This law creates a new and well funded agency of the government. For a country the size of Hungary to allocate 65 billion HUF annually to a committee that decides if certain shows are offensive, is to create a cushy public jobs program. This agency may go on to have an institutional life that may outlive the politicians who set it up. Future governments may come to like the revenue produced by the fines, and it could turn into a shakedown racket on foreign media and film companies. Over time, this group may well like to expand the scope of their power to include print and internet as well. For now, they are saying those are off limits, but I would be wary of such assurances.

  • justasking

    @ Laci,
    Here’s an article that I stumbled across on the Economist that you might find interesting. It’s about Hungary’s media law, it’s EU presidency and actions the EU can/can not or even may not want to take.
    I’ll attach it and hope it works :))
    http://news.economist.com/cgi-bin1/DM/t/eCUiD0dfOwk0Mo0NTTa0EE

  • Andrew

    And Europeans have issues with Turkey accessing the EU? The law and language reeks of paranoia and vagueness to censor or stop any unwanted criticism, at least in Turkey it is carried out more open and directly….. remind me, where is Hungary on the human development index?

  • Andrew

    It is a slippery slope, in Turkey one also has to be careful about (commenting on) news reports when state prosecutors are within earshot…. http://www.antalyaexpats.com/News-Antalya/Latest-News/Barbershop-political-talk-results-in-more-than-haircult-in-Turkey.html

  • Farkas László

    Dear Zsuzsa,
    Thank you for that link from a distinguished and very influential publication. Much of it mirrors our own ongoing discussion on this and other threads where we have been following this story.
    The Economist article mentions that this agency has oversight regarding print and web-publishing. The govt in it’s efforts to spin this affair, has backtracked from this, but the possibility of it still exists (especially where the print and web publishing is linked to TV, radio or cable.)
    Should such a law ever apply to this webpage, you know some important changes would have to be made. You’d need an entry page, where the user clicks and certifies that they are over a certain age (protection of minors) and that they understand that the content may be offensive.(notice of offensiveness). The posting of comments in real time could still continue according to the law, but the web publisher would be taking a foolish risk in allowing that! Let slip through and post any comment that violates “Article 24” criteria, and a “notification” sent to the Media Coucil could soon follow, sent by anybody. The only way for a web publisher to not have a date with the MC, is to start doing their work for them, and applying Article 24 rules to all submissions before publication, i.e. set up a “moderation ” process of comment review and withholding. To do otherwise would be taking a big risk in favor of “free speech” under this law.

  • wolfi

    @FL:
    As far as I understand it, in most countries the owner of a site like this would have to react after someone complained about e g a typical racist or homophobic (or whatever )comment and delete that as soon as he is told about it …
    If someone like e g our Terrible Triplets (copyright) would do this type of commenting regularly, then he would probably obliged to ban them …
    Many of the “typical” Law and LYNCH idiocies like:
    “Zionist Gay Green soft cock”, “jewish agitators, such as viking, wolfi, by-boy, olga, etc.”, “your nothing but a piece of shit!”, “@ribanc You are the filthiest, most disgusting ringyó “, “you and your child molester apu”,
    and so on would be included …

  • Farkas László

    Hi wolfi,
    Your point about the application of such laws in other countries is well taken. My concern is that the Hungarian law is written in such a way that it can be applied much more restrictively and punitively to the publisher. Much depends on the whims of this new “Council” and it’s members.
    My concern about this goes beyond any partisanship, as I feel any outspoken viewpoint may sooner or later be vulnerable. This is especially true if this body lasts decades through many changes of govt, both left and right. Eventually, your idelological or political opponents are going to “stack the house”, and your “number will be up”!

  • Is this law the reason we have not seen any article on the secret recordings of the UD ZRT on you tube since Wednesday?
    The material is being removed as fast as possible, but this link works at the moment:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3i5zxqEsA4

    A telephone conversation between Tóth János and Csányi Sándor
    From there it is possible to find the others
    It was these recordings that is being used against the previous leaders of MDF, then these recordings showed that UD ZRT was working to push a replacement for leader of MDF, a more pro-Fidesz person, to eliminate MDF as a threat to Fidesz
    UD ZRT threatens to take all to court who publish anything on this

  • Farkas László

    Hi Viking,
    The effect on youtube of this legislation is interesting. Can a website embed and disseminate video materials that are Article 24 violations? This becomes especially relevant when the video is some commercial broadcast, thus triggering some of the size and marketshare requirements of the law. As youtube is in the very business of hosting video, it may not be exempt from this act, and I think a country can have youtube block certain videos from it’s national audience.

  • wolfi

    @FL: About youtube etc.
    Yes it happens to me sometimes when I follow a link, that I get the message “not available in your country” – for whatever reasons (mostly copyright, but of course you’re not told). I know there are ways around it but I’m just too lazy …
    Regarding the censorship that the new law contains (or seems to contain) with its vague “definitions” – it’ll be up to the (European) courts …
    Even Germany has lost some trials about freedom/censorship related issues – where many people would say the government was right in limiting or containing someone. We just have to wait and see …

  • Farkas László

    The provision against religious discrimination in article 24 could lead to increasing challenges before this council body from those savvy religionists and cultists who wish to more fully utilise the airwaves.
    Some may want equal time, while others may wish to purchase airtime in order to leverage their ministry and ability to raise funds. The Church of Scientology immediately came to my mind, as they are a rich, well orrganised sect that has a long history of trying to use the media to sell their regimen. The other is the classic American “televangelist” model; buy airtime and ask for money aka “love offerings” and tithes. (The latter should be an inspiring thought to any hotshot Hungarian preacher who has gotten tired of poverty!) Should these people encounter any difficulty in buying airtime or getting access to the airwaves, then this law has given them an opening to allege discrimination.
    Churches and preachers have everything to gain and nothing to lose by repeatedly bombarding the Media Council with “notifications”. If they at first don’t get their way, they can keep it up and try for years if they have to, until they get want they want- which is the chance to collect Golden Eggs.
    It will be interesting to see the complaints come in before the Council as time goes on; what the stink is, who is raising it and against whom! My guess is that religious groups will be prominent among the complainants.

  • Farkas László

    Hello Wolfi,
    No society ever achieves a final and lasting resolution of the speech issue, because free speech can’t just be legally defined; it has to be maintained as well. Over time, a societies’ commitment or it’s level of vigilance can vary. That’s understandable. So long as the people are free to replace leaders and make changes when they think liberties are being too eroded. (We weren’t always able to do that in Hungary!)

  • American in Budapest

    DoubleH63,
    I have always championed free speech.

  • Magyar2lips

    What is so scary in all this is not Orbán’s psychopathic megalomania, which is of course the fundamental principle behind the media legislation, but that so many peopple in Hungary actually still think he is a good guy. There will always be an Orbán, but their rise to power is dependent on collusion from the masses.
    Fisdesz supporters exercise a strange and scary Wagnerian “mystical nationalism”, by responding to criticism of their god/leader in a highly romantic and emotional manner. Is a large following an indication of a sound and ethical government, or is it an indication that most people are not able to follow rational and logical thinking, and have confused values.
    Hitler had a huge following and was able to bamboozle the masses, while turning his back and admitting to his cronies “my god, they are so stupid, they believe anything I say”.

  • God

    Believers are stupid, sceptics are useless.
    What now? Where do we go from here?

  • Leto

    Magyar2lips:
    What is so scary in all this is not the absolutely surreal hatred the postcommunist left-liberals (and the foreign beneficiaries of their subservience) exhibit towards Mr. Orbán and the Hungarian centre of right, which is of course the fundamental motive behind all the hysteria about the media law, but the fact that, despite the huge and unbroken popular support for his government and the long list of Socialist and free democrats criminals involved in abysmal corruption, these postcommie thugs are still capable of making such a noise. That’s an undisputable refutation for all their absurd charges.

  • olga

    @ Leto
    Re: “What is so scary in all this is not the absolutely surreal hatred the postcommunist left-liberals ”
    The postcommunist left liberals must have infiltrated every media outlet in the Western world because Orban’s media law is getting negative attention and once again Hungary is in the International news.
    Hungary seldom makes headlines in Canada and the US and when it does it never seems to be “good news”- the Gyurcsany speech, JOBBIK and the Neo-Nazis, the red sludge tragedy, EU bail out and now the media law.
    To Mr. Orban’s credit, he seems to be softening his attitude – I’ve read so many articles on this subject, I can’t reference the articles any more but several sources quoted him stating that
    if the EU says that Hungary’s new media law needs to be changed, the government will adhere to the request .

  • Orban

    Ohh Olga what a speculator you have become, what do you predict next from your crystal ball?

  • Piréz Iflo W.

    This site must be really blessed!
    I’ve seen God here, Truth, Freedom, Justice, Right, The Voice of Reason and now the mighty King Orbán himself speaks to us.
    I really hopr that the new law will bring recognition to my people and stop Hungarians from harassing us. Why don’t they want us to immigrate ?
    We love Hungary!

  • Farkas László

    Dear Olga,
    I saw your message on the other thread! I wish to express my heartfelt thanks and to return your New Years best wishes, to you, to our regular contributors whoever they are, and to our many readers world wide!
    This whole thing is law now kids, it’s going to go into effect soon and so what does it mean?
    I would take a good look at who is brought up before this tribunal, who is complaining and what is being done about it.
    The other thing to be concerned about is whether such a statute really applies to print and webpages or not.
    I can forsee that Roma related “notifications” will also eventually be in the committee’s pipeline and “to do list”. This law allows challenges to how the Roma are spoken of and how they are portrayed in the media- and it should be an interesting and controversial battleground.
    The nationalist right, in their efforts to get their message out through the media, may come to realize that taking nationalist symbols or words like “Zionism” in anything but a descriptive historical context, eventually risks and Article 24 challenge under this law.
    How serious are they about all of this? How are they going to rule on these issues? One thing I know that is serious is the size of their money, which comes to an annual budget of US $300,000,000, or about 234,000,000 Euros. That alone guarantees a long institutional life to this agency!

  • olga

    @ Orban
    Thank you for having confidence in my crystal ball – wise move
    It showed you made a wise decision by softening your stance on the media law and agreeing to look at amendments that would meet EU standards.
    Although no one can have more contempt for JOBBIK than my crystal ball, it happens to agree that scrapping the law makes no sense if amendments can be made quickly so you can start concentrating on the “real issues” facing Hungary
    Hungarians showed their confidence in you by giving you a huge majority and when I looked at the map of Hungary, the sunshine was blinding which is a very good omen from a political perspective (The one small dark cloud was over JOBBIK but it shall disappear)
    BTW,since you are a regular reader, there is some bad news showing up in my crystall ball as far as this website is concerned. It shall continue to have only 40% “Hungarian Content” (I trust there is no reason to spell out what the other 60% will be concentrating on)

  • Farkas László

    Another interesting aspect of this statute is how it can lead to criminal prosecution. An “Article 24” violation of the media act can in most cases be a criminal violation under another statute. The media law does not appear to provide criminal penalties, but those can be invoked by a prosecutor. When one agency of the Hungarian govt has in a formal hearing openly and officially exposed you of PC transgression- then other laws can kick in. Given that such a finding could be a high profile case, they may decide to make an example of some people.

  • olga

    @ Farkas Laszlo
    I really believe that Orban will agree to amend the media law according to EU request therefore the offensive clauses will be repealed and replaced.
    As far as article 24 goes – it has been mentioned that many Democratic countries including Canada have “media laws” – I don’t know if a violation of those laws go under the Criminal Code in other jurisdictions or not – do you know?
    I would guess it would depend on the content of the violation and each incident would be looked at on an individual basis depending on the circumstances.

  • Farkas László

    Dear Piréz Iflo W.,
    If we could but get some nice secure, well paying soft jobs with this new department, our mutual love of Hungary could grow even more! We should feel nothing but gratitude to the nation who makes it possible with their household fees.

  • Farkas László

    Dear Olga,
    The law packs a nuisance factor to any large entity, domestic or foreign, in that it allows for citizens themselves to raise challenges about what they think those guidlines represent. As successive governments come and go, this harrassment may stop or resume depending on the composition of the Council. I see nothing to prevent frequent reversals of opinion over time.
    Although one can say that Article 24 criteria are already defined under under existing European legislation and treaties, the opening of this administrative process to citizen complaint and input introduces a big potential source of volatility and disruption.

All content © 2004-2015 The All Hungary Media Group. Articles, comments and other information on the All Hungary Media Group's network of sites are provided "as is" without guarantees, warranties, or representations of any kind, and the opinions and views expressed in such articles and columns are not necessarily those of the All Hungary Media Group.