OSCE media freedom representative welcomes Constitutional Court decision in Hungary, concerned over silencing of independent radio
VIENNA, 21 December 2011 – The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, today welcomed a Constitutional Court decision that declared unconstitutional several key provisions of Hungary’s 2010 media law. At the same time she expressed concern over the silencing of an independent political talk and news radio in Budapest.
“I had voiced concern over the media law on several occasions over the past one-and-a-half years, and urged the authorities to reform the laws. I am encouraged to see that the Constitutional Court has decided that many of the provisions of the media law violate the Constitution of Hungary. These provisions had negatively affected media pluralism, limiting the opportunity to express differing opinions in the country,” Mijatović said.
Following the decision of the Constitutional Court, print media will be taken out of the scope of the media law and the institution of the media ombudsman will be eliminated as of 31 May 2012. The decision also immediately abolishes the limitation on the protection of confidential sources of information serving the public interest and ruled that even in issues of national security or crime prevention, court approval is needed to force journalists to disclose sources. The decision also annuls the right of the Media Authority to obtain editorial materials from media outlets without prior court approval.
“I encourage the authorities to move forward with reforming the laws to reflect international good practices and in line with OSCE commitments on media freedom. I also urge the authorities to reconsider other issues arising from the media law, including content restrictions based on vague definitions, the election of the head and members of the Media Authority and the Media Council, and the independence of public-service media.”
The Representative meanwhile expressed concern about the recent decision of the Media Council to reassign the frequency of Klub Radio. “I regret that an independent and popular political talk radio is to be taken off the air. The radio is known for its critical political views and enjoyed a half million listeners daily. As an important source of independent information, it added to a pluralistic media landscape in Hungary,” she said.
Mijatović offered her Office’s continuing support and assistance to the Hungarian authorities with the reform of media legislation.