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.


Jelica said...

This is insane--has Fidesz completely lost touch with reality? (not that they had much to begin with)

Janos said...

Fidesz has been elected democratically, and after half a year in power they still enjoy the confidence of an overwhelming majority. (As a contrast, the previous government practically lost most of its credibility and voter confidence in as little as 3 months.)

About the new media law: the NMHH's first move was against Tilos Rádio as criticism for playing an Ice-T song, full of offensive language, in an afternoon show. I think the authority was right, and the station's line of defense, that the majority of their listeners would not understand it anyway, was simmply pathetic.
But, you may say, they are small fish. Indeed. Well take a look then at Hungarian commercial tv channels. At christmas time we tried to watch some children's movies in the afternoon. The commercial breaks were littered with adverts ranging from nudity and bed-scenes, to ads for prostate medicinces, to trailers for violent gangster films and adult reality shows that were simply embarrassing to watch together with our young children. To put it mildly this was a far cry from English television, where there are strict regulations about cutting such rubbbish from prime time viewing, especially from a children's movie!
So I hope NMHH will make the next move, and will act fast. In the defence of dignity and elemental good taste.
And by the way, I don't know where the Washington Post gets its information, but according to a government communiqué "The proposed legislation’s scope does not cover blogs even if they serve as vehicles of mass media, for they are not considered business endeavours."

Greg Spencer said...

Thanks for the comment, Janos. I wouldn't care so much if this concerned narrowly targeted time and place restrictions on pornography. But the scope of the new media law is much, much broader than that. This is a horrible law -- regardless of what Fidesz say about their intentions.

Concerning the blogger aspect, I included a Hungarian link in my post that gives the details.

S Molnar said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bikeurious said...

Fidesz's popularity is irrelevant. A government does not get to impose undemocratic measures just because they happen to be popular. And the fact that many Hungarians fawningly approve of Fidesz does not justify the media law; rather, it speaks volumes about our country's aptitude for democratic self-governance. Truly pitiful.