The association spoke out following a Hearing on Press Freedom organised by the Media Intergroup of the European Parliament, which was addressed by representatives of Hungarian publishers and journalists, among others.
ENPA, together with the Hungarian Publishers’ Association (MLE), stressed that the recent amendments to the laws proposed by Budapest were not sufficient. In particular, the new media law has created legal uncertainty for the print media sector as regards:
• Unclear definitions in the law
• Authority control over editorial content
• Restrictions over freedom of enterprise and right to control business contracts
• Absence of the right to appeal regarding decisions of the Media Council authority
Mr Tibor Kovács, President of the Hungarian Publishers’ Association, said: “We call on Members of the European Parliament for their support in persuading the Hungarian Government to change the current inconsistencies and ambiguities in the media laws, after a proper social consultation process involving publishers. Only by doing this, can we ensure that those laws will benefit from the widest possible acceptance and support.”
ENPA emphasised that the new Hungarian media laws should not be allowed to become a precedent for other European countries. Mr Ivar Rusdal, President of ENPA, said: “The cumulative effect of all of the unclear and negative elements of the Hungarian media law is that publishers would not have the freedom to operate freely, which is vital to fulfill the democratic function of the press in society.”
Newspaper publishers appreciate the importance the European Parliament places on freedom of the press and shares the view that interference or pressure by public authorities should be resisted in order to guarantee freedom of expression. However, ENPA warned that the Parliament risks undermining the freedom of the press with calls by some MEPs for a Directive on media pluralism and concentration in Europe.
Mr Rusdal added: “We would strongly suggest that the European Parliament focuses on the current issues of press freedom in Hungary and does not rush into any EU legislation that would decrease, rather than increase, the independence of the media.”
The European Newspaper Publishers’ Association (ENPA) represents over 5,200 national, regional and local newspaper titles, published in 23 European Union Member States, plus Norway and Switzerland. More than 150 million newspapers are sold and read by over 300 million Europeans every day, in addition to millions of unique daily visits to over 2,500 online newspapers’ websites.