Media legislation

Shortly after taking office in 2010, Viktor Orbán’s new parliamentary majority passed new media regulation, including Act CIV of 2010 on Press Freedom and the Fundamental Rules of Media Content (the so-called ‘Media Constitution’) and Act CLXXXV of 2010 on Media Services and Mass Communication (the ‘Media Act’), regulating all platforms, including the print press, radio, television, and the Internet. Neither the opposition parties, nor professional bodies, nor non-governmental organisations were consulted before passing the law. Other pieces of legislation—such as Act CCXI of 2011 on the Protection of Families—also regulate media content. Hungary’s constitution (the so-called ‘Base Law’), passed in 2011, declares that Hungary protects the freedom to impart and to gather information. The new media regulation replaced the 1986 Press Act and the 1996 Radio and Television Act, and established new regulatory authorities with new appointment mechanisms.

The Penal Code, passed in 2012, retained the numerous restrictions on free speech established by the previous Penal Code, including incitement to hatred, incitement to violence, incitement against a community, as well as the denial of “crimes committed by national socialist or communist systems.” It also bans the use of the swastika, the red star, and the sickle and hammer. The denial of the Holocaust is a criminal offense.

Act 2011 CXVII on Information Self-Determination and Freedom of Information, as amended in 2013, grants state bodies the right to reject requests for information on vaguely defined grounds. A series of new regulations passed in late 2016 were to enable state-owned companies—including the Hungarian Post and companies and foundations owned by the National Bank—to classify data on their economic activities and to deny access to these for the protection of ‘business interests.’ The Constitutional Court, however, ruled that the financial transparency of entities under the control of the National Bank should be preserved.

International and domestic press freedom watch actors, including the Media Freedom Representative of OSCE, the International Press Institute, Reporters Without Borders, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression have widely criticised the 2010 media laws for concentrating power over the media in the hands of Fidesz nominees. The latest country report issued in 2016 by Freedom House states that: “Laws passed in 2010 increased state regulation of the media and created new avenues for political interference, and the media environment deteriorated further in 2015.”