EurActiv.com Correspondent's Choice

This story about press freedom in Hungary in the EU was originally published on 23rd December 2010 by EurActiv.

The European Commission took a cautious stance Wednesday (22 December) over a controversial “media constitution” in Hungary that has been heavily criticised for restricting press freedom in the country taking up the EU’s rotating six-month presidency. EurActiv.hu contributed reporting from Budapest.

The Commission’s “wait and see” attitude came in sharp contrast to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which issued a strong statement on the controversial media law.

The Hungarian ruling centre-right party Fidesz, using its parliamentary supermajority, has enacted two bills and a constitutional amendment on Tuesday (21 December) that will tighten the government’s grip on the media.

The ruling party calls the changes the country’s “new media constitution”.

The new laws impose a strict supervisory regime on all print, broadcasted and online media, including “online media abroad that has been located in another country in order to circumvent stricter regulation in Hungary”.

Since it won the lections in April, Fidesz has amended the country’s constitution ten times.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn criticised the law, saying it would put Hungary in a similar boat as the authoritarian regime in Belarus.

“It’s a direct danger for democracy,” Asselborn said in a telephone interview with Reuters. “The state will control opinion.”

“Until now [Alexander] Lukashenko was considered to be the last dictator in Europe. When the law takes effect, that won’t be the case any more,” he added.

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