STATEMENT ON HUNGARY MEDIA LAW

The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights clearly states that "the freedom and pluralism of the media should be respected," and the EU has always stood up for media freedom and pluralism.

In this context Vice President Kroes demanded and achieved four sets of changes to the Hungarian Media Law in early 2011 where the law did not respect EU law, including fundamental rights. Those changes included positive changes on Balanced coverage, media registration and causing offence.

The Commission fully exploited its competences, and has been consistent in following up its concerns. In October we established a high level group led by the former President Freiberga of Latvia, to examine and to encourage pluralism in practice. The next meeting is on 25 Jan, and Hungary will be on the agenda.

In addition to the Commission's intervention, the Hungarian constitutional court ruled on 19/12/11 that the Hungarian media law "unconstitutionally limited freedom of the written press." The effects of the judgement remain valid.

Vice President Kroes and the Commission urge the Hungarian authorities to respect the Hungarian Constitutional Court ruling on the Media Law, with the same speed and efficiency with which they reacted to the Commission's assessment on the EU law aspects.

For example, the court has ruled that journalists may protect their sources with immediate effect.

Other changes are required to be made by the Parliament by 31 May 2012 including ending the requirement that printed and online media seek approval to publish quotes from a person on statements they have made.

On the separate issue of radio licensing, I want to stress the separate but linked nature of that situation.

Under EU law a national government is free to lay down general interest conditions when granting radio licenses, including both cultural diversity and linguistic diversity and media pluralism - provided that the award procedure is objective, transparent, non-discriminatory and proportionate. (Authorisation Directive, Article 5).

Parties should have the right under national law to appeal radio spectrum licensing decisions – in court - where they consider that these conditions, laid down by EU law, have not been respected.

Irrespective of whether there could be legal grounds to challenge the radio licence award decision in this specific case, the Commission is keenly aware that this case cannot be assessed in isolation from the wider debate in Hungary.

The Commission also notes in particular that the EU does not place a limit on the number of radio licenses a Member State can issue. 

Vice President Kroes believes the more competition the better, and encourages the Hungarian Government to consider issuing additional radio licenses.

The Commission also hopes that any non-successful bidders from recent and future bidding processes will find success as internet radio stations.

To that end we are doing all we can to increase broadband access, which is a powerful vehicle for new media – 98% of Hungarians have access to broadband and therefore to internet radio stations.