Vice-President of the European Commission Neelie Kroes blogged at the EC website last Wednesday about the latest developments on media freedom in Hungary, praising the newly published CMCS study Hungarian Media Laws in Europe.
Kroes relayed her concerns about the case of Klubradio, a critical Hungarian radio station faced with the loss of its frequencies, and wrote about Wednesday's meeting of an independent high-level group on freedom and pluralism of the media. The group, which is chaired by former President of Latvia Vaira Vike-Freiberga, focused its discussion on the situation in Hungary and was given a presentation by Amy Brouillette, lead researcher of the CMCS study.
Kroes pointed out in her blog post that the CMCS study "notes that the Hungarian media authority has a concentration of powers unique across Europe," and she wrote that she "can highly recommend that study if you want to learn more on this issue."
In a press conference after the meeting of the high-level group, Vike-Freiberga stated that elements of the new legislation had created "potential sources of pressure on the media," constituting "a potential danger for narrowing the range of their freedom of expression". Hungary's leaders, she said, "would be wise to reconsider the laws and regulations that they have passed so as not to stand in contravention of various fundamental principles."
Neelie Kroes had already raised the findings of the CMCS study previously, in her letter to Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister Tibor Navracsics of 17 January, as one of the reasons to bring up her concerns over Hungary's media legislation anew. In the letter, which was leaked and is available on the site of the Financial Times, she linked to the CMCS study when she wrote:
"In your letter of 29 December 2010, you stated that no part of the Hungarian media regulation contains provisions not found in the legislation of one or more Member States. However, a recent analysis indicates that Hungary's media laws may go beyond the European practices and norms cited by you, not so much as regards certain specific aspects, but more generally as regards their overall scope and effect. I refer in particular to the combination of provisions regarding the Media Authority's independence and centralised structure, its cumulative powers including in particular its sanctioning powers, and the wide scope of application of the media laws (regulating the print and online press in a manner broadly equivalent to the audiovisual/broadcasting media).
Given the widely perceived risk that such far-reaching powers across the various types of media lead as a whole to a disproportionately centralised control of the media, without apparent precedent in other European jurisdictions, this further underlines the need I have mentioned above to remove concerns about overall compliance with European values.”