EBU, OSCE cooperate on media freedom

The European Broadcast Union (EBU) and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have agreed to cooperate over media freedom in the wake of threats such as Hungary’s controversial new media law. Hungary announced plans to reintroduce state censorship for all media in December 2010, which has lead to public criticism from several other European Union member states. However, Hungary has now bowed to pressure from the EBU and fellow member states of the European Union and watered down the new media law introduced Jan. 1, 2011, after its parliament voted overwhelmingly on March 8 to amend the legislation. The law had subjected media organizations to a supervisory authority with the power to impose substantial fines if coverage was found to be lacking in "balance" or respect for "human dignity."

The amendments narrow the scope of the law so it no longer covers on-demand services such as Internet sites or blogs. It also limits potential action against foreign media reporting from Hungary. Registration with the authorities will no longer be a prerequisite for media operations, and a ban on offensive content has also been softened.

This issue had been discussed at the meeting between the EBU and OSCE, but it seems that Hungary was already going to compromise. However, both organizations agree there is work still to be done to achieve consistent freedom of speech and publication across the whole EU. Only a few days earlier, a group of members of the European Parliament (elected from each member state) and prominent professionals in the media world had warned that press freedom had also deteriorated badly in Romania, Bulgaria, Italy and France and called on EU institutions to spearhead a wide-ranging "reconquest" of basic rights across all member countries.