Freedom of Press in Hungary is vanishing

Leipzig, 17 May, 2013. It is with concern that the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig takes note of the report published yesterday by Human Rights Watch detailing the threat to the rule of law in Hungary posed by the governing FIDESZ party. According to this report, constant changes to the Hungarian Constitution and the associated legal uncertainty have resulted in self-censorship among journalists. The 29-page-report, "Wrong Direction on Rights. Assessing the Impact of Hungary's New Constitution and Laws," confirms the Media Foundation's assessment that freedom of the press in Hungary has been curtailed since the new government took office.

In November 2012, for example,  public broadcaster MTV forcibly cleared a protest camp in which MTV journalists had been demonstrating for almost a year against the manipulation of news broadcasts.

Among them were former Japan correspondent Balázs Nagy Navarro and journalist Aranka Szávuly, both of whom received the Media Foundation's "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media"  in 2012 in recognition of their work for this cause. On the occasion of that award, hundreds of Leipzig residents signed a petition protesting the curtailment of media freedom  in Hungary, which was received by the Chancellor's Office in Berlin.

Aranka Szávuly described the present situation as follows in her remarks to the Media Foundation: "Due to the frequent legal changes there is considerable uncertainty among journalists as to what you can do and what not. This leads to self-censorship and the feeling of being threatened if you are not positively disposed towards the people in charge."

In 2011, Prime Minister Victor Orbán adopted a restrictive media law and filled high-level positions in the public broadcast authorities with his own followers. As a result, EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes called upon the Hungarian government to respect and implement the basic principles of media freedom. This call was prompted by the government's repeated denial of broadcasting licenses to the country's sole opposition broadcaster, "Klubradio" in the first year of the FIDESZ government. Most recently, in March, Victor Orbán caused outrage with his comments about a report critical of Hungary in "logo", a German news program for children, saying "If something like this would happen in the Hungarian TV, everybody would be fired within a minute."

In light of the steadily progressive curtailment of media rights, the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig is extremely concerned about freedom of the press in Hungary.