Hungary promises to reassess media law

Orban said that if EU legal experts found shortcomings in the newly passed legislation, he would be willing to amend it

Hungary promises to reassess media law

Hungary sought to settle concerns about its presidency of the European Union on Friday, with Prime Minister Viktor Orban promising to change a much criticised media law if the EU finds legal problems with it.

Under pressure from large European Union member states such as Britain, France and Germany, and following one-on-one talks with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Orban said that if EU legal experts found shortcomings in the newly passed legislation, he would be willing to amend it.

"As with all other legislation, in the case of the media law we will monitor its application in practice," Orban told a joint news conference with Barroso to launch Budapest's six-month presidency of the EU..

"And if we see that some kind of political concerns seem justified during the application of the law, then we will be ready ... to remedy those," he said.

But he said Hungary would not make changes to the law under political pressure.

"But if there is no common sense and reasonable argument, we will not make any changes whatsoever as a result of any campaign or pressure, however broad the campaign or strong the pressure may be," he said.

The media law, which compels Hungarian newspapers, TV stations and websites to follow strict rules and introduces fines for those who violate "human dignity", has given Hungary's presidency a rocky start. Luxembourg has questioned whether Orban's government is fit to run the EU's six-month agenda.

It follows strong criticism of Hungary's decision to introduce one-off "crisis taxes" on companies in the telecoms, retail and energy sectors, affecting many foreign corporations as well as Hungarian ones, and Orban's decision to pursue unorthodox economic policies to cut the deficit and spur growth.

Orban's centre-right Fidesz party holds a two-thirds majority in parliament, making it possible to drive through changes to the law quickly. Political commentators say he is governing with too little heed to opposition concerns.

"EU values"

Barroso, who is keen for the Hungarian presidency to focus on economic and financial issues as the EU battles to contain the euro zone debt crisis, said he had received assurances that Orban would respect "EU values" when enforcing the law.

"The prime minister made it clear that adjustments will be made should the Commission, after a legal assessment, find that this is not the case for all aspects of the law," he said.

"I really welcome the fact that the prime minister is willing to change the law in case implementation shows that some problems are there and that some concerns could be justified."

Barroso said Commission officials had only just begun studying the near 200-page law and gave no indication of when any opinion on it might be delivered. The EU has limited ability to seek changes to member states' domestic laws unless they are in clear violation of the EU's charter of fundamental rights.

Orban has said he is confident the law is not in violation of any EU laws because it draws on media laws in other member states, such as Denmark, France, Germany and Italy.

But some passages have raised concern about how far Hungary might go to enforce tighter rules on how the media operates, particularly at a time when it has many pressing economic and social issues to tackle.

Reuters
 

Last Mod: 08 Ocak 2011, 09:23
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