EU Concerned About Hungarian Law to Register Bloggers

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Europe's Digital Agenda Commissioner has joined the debate on Hungary's controversial new media law which many fear damages freedom of expression.

Speaking to Parliament on Tuesday, Commissioner Neelie Kroes said that the recently adopted Hungarian Media Act raises specific concerns regarding "the respect for the fundamental media freedoms such as freedom of expression and media pluralism." There are also worries in Brussels that the law does not comply with the E.U. Audiovisual and Media Services Directive.

Critics say that the Hungarian law, which came into force on Jan. 1, will jeopardize fundamental rights by requiring all media, even forums and blogs, to register with the authorities.

"The proportionality of a requirement that all online audiovisual media need to be registered needs to be examined," Kroes said.

The law also requires balanced coverage of national and European events, meaning that individual bloggers could face fines if they are deemed "unbalanced."

The European Commission will make a full legal assessment of Hungary's new law as soon as official notification of the law is received. Meanwhile, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has said that the law would be amended if necessary after the Commission's judgment.

On Monday, European Economic and Social Committee President Staffan Nilsson called on the Commission and the Hungarian government to involve press and publishers' associations in the debate.

Hungary took over the rolling six-month presidency of the European Union on Jan. 1.

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