Numerous websites have terminated or strongly tightened up their readers’ comments sections in the wake of the media council enquiry into remarks that appeared on the website of the pro-Socialist daily Népszava.
Media and communications commissioner Jen Bodonovich wrote to Népszava on July 1, the day that the new media law came into effect, saying he had initiated an investigation into 18 readers comments underneath an article posted on June 8 entitled Pál Schmitt: Ferenc Mádl Was a Strong Personality.
Websites including index.hu, hetivalasz.hu, velvet.hu, delmagyar.hu, kisalfold.hu, hvg.hu and hirszerzo.hu responded to the news by entirely removing or strictly tightening their readers’ comments sections.
Index.hu announced that it had removed its comments section because the changed legal environment means “we have to play safe” and it cannot hire three people to monitor readers’ comments around the clock.
Népszava underlined that the media council is having trouble interpreting the media law, recalling that media council spokeswoman Kiricsi Karola’s statement that reader comments do not fall under the media law.
The left-wing daily noted that Bodonovich had launched the inquiry in response to comments, citing the media law.
Media council member András Koltay said on Sunday that the media law does not apply to comments, blogs or fora, and only to content published after June 30.
He said “to the best of his knowledge” Bodonovich is trying to ascertain whether the text falls under the media regulation at all, because he can only launch inquiries in connection with editorial content.
The new media law includes a regulation that publications must not print opinions that “offend human dignity” and run counter to the basic values of a democratic state governed by the rule of law. However no one has yet revealed which comment provoked Bodonovich’s probe.
The media authority can also fine a publication for refusing to provide data or “not honouring it satisfactorily”.