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IPI, RSF and Austrian journalists' union urge Hungarian government to withdraw new media legislation

(IPI/IFEX) - January 12, 2011 - Leading Austrian newspapers are to carry on Thursday an IPI Austria insert calling on the Hungarian government to withdraw recently-passed media legislation heavily criticised by top EU politicians, the OSCE, journalists and a host of press freedom and freedom of expression groups.

The insert - signed by the IPI Austria National Committee, Reporters without Borders and the Austrian GPA Journalists' Union - warns that the new legislation constitutes a fundamental threat to press freedom, and therefore to democracy, by muzzling journalists and introducing censorship.

Recalling the "heroic" role played by Hungary in throwing off the yoke of Communism, and evolving peacefully into a democracy, the insert urges the Hungarian government to strengthen - and not weaken - democracy within the European Union.

"Suggestions by top Hungarian politicians that the legislation could conceivably be changed are not enough," the insert says. It calls on the Hungarian government to withdraw the legislation and to replace it with legislation whose conformance with democratic principles is not in question.

IPI Austria National Committee head Gerfried Sperl, who initiated the insert, said: "The Hungarian nation has in its history always fought for democracy and freedom of speech. The government of Hungary should strengthen democracy and not weaken it."

"This declaration is also a message to all Austrian politicians who from time to time try to initiate laws which reduce freedom of the media."

IPI Press Freedom Manager Anthony Mills said: "The many leading Austrian newspapers running this insert on Thursday are - along with the statement's signatories - sending a powerful message in support of press freedom in Hungary. We urge the Hungarian government to take note of the grave concerns expressed in the statement and to ensure that press freedom - and with it, democracy - are upheld."

The insert is to appear in the following Austrian newspapers: Die Kleine Zeitung; Die Presse; Der Standard; Kurier; Salzburger Nachrichten; Wirtschaftsblatt; Oberösterreichische Nachrichten; Neues Volksblatt; Tiroler Tageszeitung; Vorarlberger Nachrichten; Wiener Zeitung.

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