Hungary amends media law, defusing EU criticism

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 18, 2011 4:37 PM
Hungary amends media law, defusing EU criticism

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary's parliament on Monday amended a controversial media law to comply with the requirements of the European Union, which said the changes were satisfactory but implementation must be monitored.

Parliament, where the ruling center-right Fidesz party holds a two-thirds majority, voted by 258 to 65 to pass the amendments, with 38 abstentions.

The European Commission had complained that the new law restricted the operation of foreign companies present in Hungary, and curbed freedom of expression.

Hungarian and international media also widely condemned the law, and the controversy contributed to a stormy start for Hungary as it took the rotating presidency of the EU in January.

The amendments narrow the scope of the law so that it no longer prescribes balanced news coverage for on-demand services such as Internet sites or blogs. It also narrows the authorities' scope of 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.

European Union telecoms chief Neelie Kroes on Monday said she was satisfied with Hungarian guarantees that changes to the media law would comply with all EU rules.

"So far the European Commission and the government of Hungary did agree on the amendments that were badly needed on the proposal that was sent to parliament," Kroes told a news conference.

"In the implementation, we still need to be quite active in monitoring what is at stake. We will give it a close look in the monitoring (phase) afterwards."

(Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Kevin Liffey)