Wednesday, December 29, 2010

In the Middle of Europe, a Democracy Introduces Press Censorship

As the world's attention focuses on WikiLeaks and the debate it has spawned about the extent of press freedom in the information age, one European country has taken a decisive step away from that freedom.

Hungary's recently elected right-wing government has introduced a law demanding -- under threat of fines and even shut-down -- that news sources be "fair and balanced," to borrow a phrase from a US news network. The move has critics fearing that it could lead to a silencing of critical media outlets.

Under the new Law on Media and the Freedom of Press, national TV channels whose news coverage is found to be "unbalanced or offensive to human dignity or common morals" could be fined the equivalent of almost $1 million, reports the New York Times, while daily newspaper and Internet news sites could face fines of up to $120,000. Weeklies and magazines could see fines of almost $50,000.

Most problematically, human rights groups say the law is vague on what constitutes an offense, and will be administered by an agency controlled by the prime minister's allies -- a perfect recipe for political oppression.'


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