Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Czech foreign minister criticises Hungarian media law

ČTK |
27 December 2010

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg considers the new Hungarian media law "incompatible" with the EU's democratic principles, he has told the dpa German news agency.

Brussels/Prague, Dec 24 (CTK) - Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg considers the new Hungarian media law "incompatible" with the EU's democratic principles, he has told the dpa German news agency.

The controversial legislation expands the state's power to monitor and penalise private media. It introduces high fines for "biased reports. Its critics say the law violates the media independence.

"The way of drafting this law is really dangerous," dpa quoted Schwarzenberg as saying on Thursday.

He pointed out that this law might be abused for silencing the press.

It should be clearly stated on the European level at the earliest opportunity that the Hungarian media law is at variance with the EU's principles, said Schwarzenberg, chairman of the junior government conservative TOP 09.

However, he at the same time warned against the EU's too fierce steps against Hungary in this respect.

"The EU should not shoot from a big gun," Schwarzenberg said.

He added that he believes that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is a reasonable man who would amend the controversial law.

Schwarzenberg was also foreign minister in the previous coalition cabinet of Mirek Topolanek under which the dubious "muzzle law" was passed.

The law, valid since April 1, 2009, bans the publication of information on suspected and accused persons in the course of criminal proceedings and the publication of information from police wiretappings. A breach of the law can be punished with up to five years in prison and fines of up to five million crowns.

The current centre-right coalition government of the Civic Democrats (ODS), TOP 09 and Public Affairs (VV) wants to soften the "muzzle law" to enable journalists to publish information on participants in criminal proceedings relating to politicians' or other state officials' corruption.

A number of high-ranking European politicians along with representatives of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation (OECD) and the European Alliance of News Agencies (EANA) have stood up against the Hungarian media law that is to take effect on January 1, 2011 when Hungary takes up the six-month EU presidency.

($1=19.369 crowns)

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