The Editors About Hungary’s New Media Law

As expressed in this special issue, since the political changes of 1989 and Hungary’s subsequent membership in the EU, there has been a significant transformation of the country’s cultural atmosphere, avenues of discourse and forums for artistic expression. The diversity of the articles appearing in this ARTMargins Hungary Focus issue are indicative of this reshaping of the cultural environment. Yet in contrast to this transformation, in July of 2010 the Hungarian parliament established the National Media and Communications Authority; on December 21st a national Media Council was established. At the beginning of 2011 the laws resulting from this legislation came into effect. While the democratic nature and objective of these laws has been subject to considerable debate, the institutions created to implement them have nevertheless been packed with members of the ruling party. Their purported objective is to insure the ‘balanced’ representation of news and events in all forms of media (from analog to digital to print); this not only applies to domestic media but also to external media reporting on domestic events. Institutional (as well as individual) violations of this newly defined criteria of ‘balanced’ reporting or discussion are subject to draconian financial penalties which, in the present economic environment, are tantamount to bankruptcy or financial collapse. Ironically, at the moment when Hungary assumes the presidency of the European Union, and claims commitment to the principles of a democratic and free press, it has cloaked itself in a situation that threatens the country’s most fundamental freedoms.