Hungarian president urged to veto controversial media bill

Hungarian president Pal Schmitt has been urged by the opposition and media representatives to veto the media bill. Pressure to block the bill have also come from high-ranking EU officials and government representatives of other EU member states.

The new law places television and radio stations as well as virtually all other means of publication (not only newspapers and magazines but also internet portals and blogs) under the control of the new media council – an institution compromising only members of the governing Fidesz-party. The law was criticised nationally and internationally as it stipulates that the media council can fine editors if they publish ‘unbalanced’ articles or those violating ‘human dignity’ (fines can be as high as €89.700/ $118.000).

Even though the opposition sees the law as clearly unconstitutional they argued that any constitutional complaint would not prevent it from entering into force on January 1, 2011. Therefore, president Schmitt would have to refuse to sign the law and send it back to parliament for reconsideration. There, however, Fidesz (of which Mr Schmitt is also a member) holds a 2/3-majority, making an override very likely.

The media bill had received special attention by European leaders not only due to its context but also because Hungary takes over the rotating EU presidency in the beginning of 2011.

5 thoughts on “Hungarian president urged to veto controversial media bill

  1. […] The new constitution is a highly debated subject since the Hungarian general elections last year. Opposition representatives fear that the government will try to manifest its current 2/3 majority with the new document, the LMP-party even withdrew from the committee drafting the constitution as they regarded several government plans as irreconcilable with the spirit of the old constitution and prevalent democratic practice in Hungary. Even though the government disposes of enough seats in the assembly to pass the new constitution without support from opposition parties, prime minister Orban has to do everything he can to convince opposition parties to vote in favour. If not, the government is at risk to be criticised even more for its alleged authoritarian tendencies as it was the case with the new Hungarian media law. […]

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