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Council of Europe says Hungary must do more on media law

15 May 2012, 22:57 CET
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(STRASBOURG) - Hungary's proposed amendments to its controversial media law are a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done, the chief of the Council of Europe said on Tuesday.

"It definitely goes in the right direction, so we welcome that very much even if there is still some work to do," said Thorbjorn Jagland, the secretary general of the pan-European body.

Jagland said the council was still concerned by the procedure for appointing bodies regulating the media in the central European country.

It was "very important that they elect someone seen as independent, not linked to the government or political forces. They have not touched upon this, but said to us there are possibilities for further amendments," he said.

The council's college of experts was more critical of the proposals, saying: "The law should make clear that disclosure of sources should only be sought or ordered if the need is clearly established and there is vital public or private interest which outweighs the interest in non-disclosure.

"Without this qualification there is a serious threat to investigative journalism," it said in a statement, adding that the law should also be amended to protect sources of freelancers.

Hungary submitted the amendments to parliament last week.

The media law, which came into force in January 2011 just as Budapest took over the six-month presidency of the European Union, drew fire for imposing severe fines on journalists who did not reveal their sources.

It also established a new Media Council to control the press, composed entirely of close allies of the ruling party, Fidesz.

Following European criticism, the law was first amended in early 2011, but these changes too came under attack for being too superficial.

The new amendments are due to be voted on in parliament shortly and could come into effect by May 31.

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