Hungary Fidesz says can amend media law if needed

Thu Dec 23, 2010 9:50am GMT

By Krisztina Than

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary's ruling party is prepared to amend a controversial new media law if it proves problematic to implement, a Fidesz politician said on Thursday after the legislation triggered outrage across Europe.

Hungary's parliament passed a law on Tuesday to tighten government control over news outlets, which media watchdogs said was arbitrary and ill-defined and which prompted strong protests in several leading European newspapers.

Under the legislation, which the Hungarian government says is in line with similar laws in other EU member states, the new media authority -- dominated by officials loyal to Fidesz -- will oversee all public news production and its powers will include levying big fines on private media that violate the law.

The law, pending the signature of the president, is due to take effect on January 1.

Janos Lazar, head of the Fidesz parliamentary group -- which has a two-thirds majority in parliament -- told commercial channel TV2 on Thursday that Hungary wanted to try a new regulatory model, but the law could be amended if necessary.

"If the (media authority) applies it in a wrong way, or there are problems, as a result of objections parliament will change this law, you should not have any doubts," Lazar said.

"Our aim is not to wage a war against the Hungarian press as the conservative side has always lost that in the past 20 years...but to try to regulate issues which have not been regulated so far in order to improve...the media in Hungary."

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn criticised the law and urged the European Commission to take swift action.   Continued...

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