Friday, December 31, 2010

Bloggers under fire

So as of tomorrow, according to Hungary's Putin-esque new media law, some 250,000 bloggers in Hungary will be required to register themselves with the authorities.

The new law, the last bit of which was signed into law this past week, is a clamp down on freedom of independent speech by a right-wing government that has a better than two-thirds majority in Parliament. As a critical editorial in the Washington Post explains, the law:

"creates a powerful Media Council with the authority to regulate newspapers, television, radio and the Internet. The council may issue decrees and impose heavy fines - up to $950,000 - for news coverage it considers "unbalanced" or offensive to "human dignity."

It will also require bloggers and websites to be officially registered. I'm not sure what will be the repercussions of this part of the law. For instance, will bloggers who offend the government risk having their registrations revoked? Even if they aren't, the law stands to create a climate of self-censorship among those who should be speaking truth to power, as underscored by the OSCE.

As far as I can tell, this won't affect me, as it takes specific aim at electronic publishers in Hungarian language. I may write about Hungarian matters, but mainly in English language, which I reckon gets me off the hook. To be honest, it kind of feels like a snub, although I don't take it personally. It seems the government doesn't care much about the English language media or criticism from abroad. At any rate, with the law coming into effect on January 1, we'll soon see what sort of government oppression I'll be missing out on.