Attacks on the Press   |   Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Romania, Spain, Turkey, UK

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Europe, a Leader That Lags

Until his last days in office, Italy's Silvio Berlusconi pursued restrictive legislation known as the 'gag law.' (Reuters/Alessandro Garofalo)

In the EU, some countries appear more immune than others to scrutiny and reproach. Anti-terror laws, political and economic concerns, and a lack of common standards all challenge the credibility of the EU's diplomacy. By Jean-Paul Marthoz

Attacks on the Press   |   Hungary

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Hungary

On January 1, 2011, the day Hungary assumed the rotating presidency of the European Union, a restrictive new media law came into force. The law created a National Media and Infocommunications Authority--staffed with appointees of the ruling Fidesz party--that was given vast powers to regulate news media. The law established heavy fines for violations such as carrying "imbalanced news coverage" or running content that violates "public morality." The law applied to all news media, reaching beyond national borders to foreign outlets "aimed at the territory of Hungary." The measure triggered protests in Hungary and throughout Europe, where it was seen as violating the Charter of Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty. Hungarian lawmakers agreed to minor changes in response to pressure from the European Commission. In December, the country's Constitutional Court struck down a provision that would have obliged journalists to reveal confidential sources. The court also exempted print media from the law as of May 2012, although it left intact most other anti-press provisions. The domestic media scene reflected deep polarization between supporters and adversaries of the center-right Fidesz. Political pressures were rife in public broadcasting: In July, 570 employees of the four state-run media companies were dismissed, representing about 16 percent of the workforce. Authorities reassigned the broadcast frequency of the largest opposition radio station, Klubradio, to an entertainment broadcaster in December, citing a higher bid.

February 21, 2012 12:50 AM ET
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