IPI/SEEMO Fact-finding Mission to Hungary in December 2010
Joint IPI/SEEMO Fact-finding Mission to Hungary To Be Held 15-16 December 2010
The South and East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) would like to announce the following:
Vienna, 14 December 2010
The International Press Institute (IPI) and its affiliate, the South and East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), will hold a press freedom fact-finding mission to Hungary on 15-16 December 2010.
The mission participants will be: SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Board Member Marta Palics, and IPI Press Freedom and Communications Manager Anthony Mills. They will be a meeting with a broad array of journalists and state officials. The mission comes at a particularly worrying time for press freedom in Hungary.
In early December, several Hungarian newspapers published blank front pages to protest against legislation which they warn curtails press freedom. In recent months, IPI and SEEMO have also expressed concern at legislative efforts - described by the ruling party as necessary media reform - to limit press freedom in Hungary.
Legislation currently being discussed in parliament envisages granting the official media watchdog the power to levy sizeable fines on private media outlets, and to sanction media outlets for "unbalanced coverage" and transgressions against the rules on covering "sex, violence or alcohol," according to the BBC.
The government has argued that the law will guarantee a more balanced media, the BBC noted.
The BBC also reported that if the legislation currently under discussion passes media outlets will have to devote at least 50% of programming to European productions and radio stations will have to fill at least a quarter of their air time with Hungarian music.
In addition, the bill contains a proposal to allow the newly-created Media Council - all of whose members are government nominees - to hand down fines which must be paid before they can be appealed. Since the fines could total tens of thousands of Euros, some media outlets could face financial threats to their existence.
Parliament has been debating the bill - which enjoys overwhelming support from centre-right government parties - for the past few days, and is expected to pass it any day now. In November, Hungary's parliament passed legislation ostensibly aimed at promoting press freedom but which in fact allows for journalists to be forced to give up their confidential sources in cases involving vaguely-defined 'national security'.
SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said: "For the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) this visit is very important. We aim to obtain clear feedback from media and state representatives about the media situation, problems, and developments in Hungary."
IPI Press Freedom and Communications Manager Anthony Mills said: "We have in recent months repeatedly expressed our concern at the deteriorating press freedom situation in Hungary. The legislation currently being discussed in parliament is further evidence of an attempt to limit the scope of press freedom in the country. That's why missions like this are so important."
The South and East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) fully supports this statement.