Hungary’s Media Law: One Year Later

Over 50 people attended CIMA’s event marking the one-year anniversary of Hungary’s parliament’s passing a media law that drew widespread international criticism for undermining freedom of expression and increasing media controls. The government disputed these claims, but the International Partnership Mission to Hungary, which comprised freedom of expression and media development groups, found the regulations to be “broad, uncertain, and inconsistent with European standards of media freedom.” Specifically, democracy and media advocates object to the law’s scope of regulation, vague content rules, the Media Council’s wide-ranging powers and appointment structure, and changes to public service media, among other issues. Panelists examined the impact of the law one year after its passage and discussed the outlook for press freedom in Hungary in the wake of deteriorating economic conditions, media convergence, and other challenges.

The Center for International Media Assistance and the Central and Eastern Europe Program

at the National Endowment for Democracy

and the Open Society Foundations

present a discussion on

Hungary’s Media Law: One Year Later


Charles Gati

Johns Hopkins University

Miklos Haraszti

Columbia University

Ellen Hume

Central European University

Balázs Weyer

Foundation for Quality Journalism

With remarks by:

Magda Walter

Open Society Foundations

Moderated by:

Nadia Diuk

National Endowment for Democracy

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

12-2:00 p.m.

About the panelists:

Charles Gati is a professorial lecturer and interim director of Russian and Eurasian Studies and a Foreign Policy Institute senior fellow at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. A professor emeritus at Union College, he has also taught at Columbia University and has served as a senior member of the policy planning staff at the U.S. Department of State. Gati has written extensively on European-Russian relations, including in Foreign Affairs. He is the author of Failed Illusions: Moscow, Washington, Budapest and the 1956 Hungarian Revolt and Hungary and the Soviet Bloc, both of which have received the Marshall Shulman Book Prize for outstanding book on the international relations of the former Soviet bloc. Gati’s next book, History Haunts, will be published in 2012, and he is the editor of a forthcoming anthology of original essays on Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Miklos Haraszti is a Hungarian writer, editor, professor, and human rights promoter. He is currently co-teaching a course on global press freedom issues at Columbia University with Lee C. Bollinger, the university’s president. Convicted on “subversion” charges in the early 1970s, he went on to become a founder of Hungary’s democratic and free press movement. In 1989, he participated in the “Roundtable Negotiations” on the transition to free elections. As a member of the Hungarian parliament in the 1990s, Haraszti authored the country’s first laws on press freedom. From 2004 to 2010, he served as the OSCE representative on freedom of the media and in October-November 2010 he headed the OSCE assessment mission for the U.S. midterm elections. Haraszti’s books, including A Worker in a Worker’s State and The Velvet Prison, have been translated into many languages.

Ellen Hume is an Annenberg fellow in civic media at Central European University (CEU) in Budapest, where she teaches and participates in research projects and workshops. Before arriving at CEU, Hume was the research director at the Center for Future Civic Media at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Previously, she founded the Center on Media and Society at the University of Massachusetts Boston and the New England Ethnic Newswire. She also served as executive director and senior fellow at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy, and as executive director of PBS’s Democracy Project, where she developed special news programs that encouraged citizen involvement in public affairs. Hume was a White House and political correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, national reporter for the Los Angeles Times, and regular commentator on PBS’s Washington Week in Review and CNN’s Reliable Sources programs. She has been a member of CIMA’s Advisory Council since 2007 and wrote a report for the center, Caught in the Middle: Central and Eastern European Journalism at a Crossroads, published in January 2011.

Magda Walter is the regional editor for Eastern and Central Europe in OSF’s Mapping Digital Media research project. She is a Polish-born former broadcast journalist, having worked for twenty years in political, business and international news for US public TV, CNN, CNBC Asia and NBC News, where she was Moscow Bureau Chief in 1998/1999. Since leaving journalism, she was the European Media Chief for the World Bank, and is now a media and communications consultant and journalism trainer. She has conducted media development programs in a number of former Soviet republics for the International Center for Journalists and Internews.

Balázs Weyer is a Hungarian editor, journalist, and media ethics campaigner in Budapest. Weyer recently left his post as editor-in-chief at the Hungarian news portal, which he founded in 1998. During that time, he also served as a member of an expert focus group for the European Commission preparing the audiovisual directive in 2006 and a board member of the self-regulating industry organization Hungarian Association of Content Providers between 2003 and 2010. In the 1990s, he was the managing editor of RTL’s Klub, a nationally broadcast news program, while also serving as the president of the European Association of Community Broadcasters and president of the board for Tilos Radio. Prior to that, he was the editor of the politics section of the magazine Magyar Narancs. A board member of the Foundation for Quality Journalism, Weyer has authored and co-authored handbooks on investigative reporting and media ethics for reporters, radio broadcasters, and economic journalists.

About the moderator:

Nadia Diuk serves as vice president of programs for Europe and Eurasia, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean at the National Endowment for Democracy. For more than 20 years prior to her appointment as vice president, she supervised NED programs and strategies in what was then known as Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and, later, as Eurasia. Before joining the NED she taught Soviet politics and Russian history at Oxford University; was a research associate at the Society for Central Asian Studies in England; and was editor-in-chief of the London-based Soviet Nationality Survey. Diuk is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She earned her master’s degree in Russian and East European studies and her doctorate in modern history from St. Antony’s College at the University of Oxford.

The Center for International Media Assistance, an initiative of the National Endowment for Democracy, brings together a broad range of media experts with the goal of strengthening the support for and improving the effectiveness of media assistance programs by providing information, building networks, and conducting research on the indispensable role independent media play in creating sustainable democracies around the world.