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Europe and the Hungarian 170 pages strong media law
by Newropeans-Magazine
2012-01-13 07:15:35
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Despite sharp protests in Hungary itself and from the EU the right wing conservative government pushed a new media law through parliament, getting two thirds of the votes on 21.12.2010. The law intimidates journalists and bloggers and polarizes once again the Hungarian society. A case for the European public!

After the elections in April Hungary has made it to the headlines for a second time in 2010. The adoption of the 170 pages strong law just a few days previous to taking over the EU presidency has caused discussions throughout Europe. Even though few had the possibility to read the legal text, European governments and NGOs, in infrequent agreement, are criticising it. If the law is violated draconian fines will threaten the media's existence: Radio and television stations face penalties between 170.000 and 700.000 Euros, newspapers may be billed with up to 90.000, online media have to prepare themselves for 35.000 Euros, says the home page of Pester Lloyd, a Hungarian daily. .Critics refer to the wide range of possible interpretation the law allows as well as to the appointment of loyal followers to the central agency's board. Even if, as the government tries to appease, the law is to be applied with restraint and mostly focusing on "good behaviour" intimidation of journalists and bloggers will necessarily be the result and no favour done to diversity of opinion and democracy.

Hungary has arrived at a new milestone on its way to an authoritarian political environment. April elections have brought a majority of two thirds for Fidesz ("Alliance of Young Democrats", 52.7 per cent) and Jobbik ("The Better Ones", 16.7 per cent), which is strong enough to turn inside out the country once again. The right-wing extremist Jobbik, gaining 15 per cent of the votes at the European elections in 2009, with their agitation against Roma and the neo-fascistic behaviour of the Hungary Guards causes disconcertment and dismay throughout the whole political civilised world. And of course financial crisis and the following austerity packages have their part in this turn to national or even nationalistic values. The highly indebted Hungarian state had take out loans of 20 billion Euros from the International Money Fund (12.5 billions), the EU (6.5 billions) and the World Bank (1 billion). Additional 5 billions were sent to the Hungarian Central Bank as an emergency bail-out by the ECB.

Zoltan Kiszeli explained in an interview at 30.12.10 on Deutschlandfunk the success of the right wing conservatism is also "due to mismanagement of the previous left wing liberal coalition. Corruption and feeble economic performance were daily norm." The Budapest based political scientist depicted already back in October 2010 (this time in „Titel, Thesen, Temperamente“), the fact that since the fall of the iron curtain in 1989/90 Hungary changed its governments every four years, except once, "that's why every government tries to rewrite history in all political areas. And that's why so many intellectuals are afraid to loose their job or to get no more orders if they dissent with the actually reigning politics." During 2010 and within four months 17,000 persons lost their jobs in politics, administration, science, arts and culture.

The nationally and through out Europe much protested media law adopted will not improve the confidence in future of intellectuals, artists or culturally engaged people. This law undermines the democrat's commonness of basic values, which is absolutely necessary in a democracy. A state is no award being handed to the winner every four years. The winner should remember that they have been elected in order to serve the whole community and not to improve the economics of supporters and followers. Doing the latter, democracy will suffer and the gap within society will widen. The growing political and social polarisation in Hungary during the last years also is a result of the poor understanding of politics - to bring that into the open is one task independent and critical media have!

Finally let's remember that already back in 1998 (!) Franck Biancheri has warned that Europe could take this direction. His article "EU 2009 - Europe in the hands of the post modern great grand sons of Hitler, Franco, Mussolini & Petain“ at first could seem a little bit to much of pessimism. But looking at the Hungarian Guards dressed in black, there is no point talking of 'only seeing the dark side of life'. And for an update of the ancestral portrait gallery we could add Horthy, the authoritarian Hungarian ruler between 1920 and 1944. Looking at its two neighbours hence Austria's' Der Standard headlined „Mussolini soft, Horthy light“... By the way the next wave of protests against the Hungarian art to forge laws is rolling: 13 heads of long establishes European companies are demanding Brussels to punish Budapest because of the special taxes imposed on foreign corporations. Let's wait and see which protest will succeed first. 


Margit Reiser-Schober*
Frankfurt am Main

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