February 5th, 2013

Hungarian NGOs turn to Council of Europe over media regulation

Five civil groups have asked Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland of the Council of Europe (CoE) to continue to keep tabs on Hungary’s media regulation even after the CoE and the government had agreed on handling the related structural problems late last month, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ) said on Monday.

Their move came after Jagland announced on January 29 that the CoE had concluded the dialogue with Hungary about disputed points of media regulation as the government had given satisfactory answers to the concerns voiced by the pan-European organisation.

The Justice Ministry said that Parliament could amend the media law next spring, in line with what the government and the CoE had agreed upon.

TASZ, the Eotvos Karoly Policy Institute, the Hungarian Europe Society, the Standards Media Monitor and the South East European Media Centre Network said in a letter addressed to Jagland that enhancing media freedom in Hungary would require further efforts both in the country and abroad.

There have been no changes promoting media freedom in the regulatory framework governing the media council, the public service media and bidding for frequencies since the media law was adopted in 2010, they said.

They said that decisions about any player seeking to enter the Hungarian media market remain to be made by a “politically homogeneous” media authority in “non-transparent” bidding processes and the country’s public service broadcasts are still “in the hands” of an excessively centralised institutional system operating with no public control.

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