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IPI renews objections to media law following amendments

(IPI/IFEX) - The International Press Institute (IPI) today renewed its objections to Hungary's new media law following the adoption of amendments intended to defuse criticism by the European Union.

The Hungarian Parliament voted Monday to narrow the law's scope against foreign media reporting from Hungary, and to eliminate a requirement that on-demand services such as Internet sites and blogs provide balanced news coverage. The Parliament also threw out a requirement that news outlets register with authorities, and softened a ban on offensive content.

However, despite the changes, elements of the legislation that remain in place continue to loom large over press freedom.

Europe's main rights and security watchdog, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said yesterday that the law still violates OSCE press freedom commitments.

"The legislation can still be misused to curb alternative and differing voices in Hungary despite modifications adopted following a request from the European Commission," Dunja Mijatović, the OSCE representative on Freedom of the Media, commented.

"Several problems remain: The law vests unusually broad powers in the politically homogeneous Media Authority and Media Council, enabling them to control content of all media. The legislation regulates broadcast, print and online media content based on identical principles. It leaves key terms undefined. It requires all media to be registered with the Media Authority. It punishes violations with high fines. It fails to guarantee the political independence of public service media."

IPI Press Freedom Manager Anthony Mills added: "While we welcome the fact that some changes have been made, a number of areas of concern remain, and unless they too are addressed, then the legislation still constitutes a potential threat to press freedom."
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