New Laws in Hungary May Restrict Media Freedom

On November 5, 2013, Hungarian Parliament adopted changes to the country's Criminal Code regarding potentially defamatory video or audio recordings. The new changes to this law include penalties such as imprisonment of up to three years for making such materials public. The longest prison sentence relates to materials published to a “wide audience” and, according to the OSCE and others, this directly targets the media. Dunja Mijatović, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, made an official statement on November 6, 2013, stressing concerns regarding the new laws and how they will impact journalism and media freedom. Ms. Mijatović said:

These amendments to the penal code can further restrict media freedom. The penalties for publishing defamatory recordings are disproportionate and may lead to the silencing of critical or differing views in society.[…]

These measures are excessive as they can have a chilling effect on investigative journalism and prevent satirical expression and critical points of view from being disseminated.[…]

Hungarian legislation already includes provisions to protect human dignity and penalize the fabrication of facts. Instead of adding new ways to chill public discourse and curb media freedom, Hungary should eliminate existing legal obstacles to media freedom.

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