Excessive Penal Code threatens media freedom in Hungary

Belgrade – Increased prison sentences for defamatory video or sound recordings are another potential threat to freedom of expression and freedom of the media in Hungary, Dunja Mijatović, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media said today. “These amendments to the penal code can further restrict media freedom. The penalties for publishing defamatory recordings are disproportionate and may lead to the silencing of critical or differing views in society”, Mijatović said.

On 5 November, the Hungarian Parliament adopted changes to the Criminal Code on the preparation and distribution of potentially defamatory video or sound recordings. With the changes, penalties include imprisonment of up to three years. The longest prison sentence relates to materials published to a wide audience, which directly targets the media.

“These measures are excessive as they can have a chilling effect on investigative journalism and prevent satirical expression and critical points of view from being disseminated,” Mijatović said.

She also warned that the amendments run against OSCE commitments to foster media pluralism, and oppose international standards aimed at decriminalizing speech offences.

“Several elements of the changes are vaguely worded and could be politically misused to penalize those with opinions that run against the views of the authorities”.

“Hungarian legislation already includes provisions to protect human dignity and penalize the fabrication of facts. Instead of adding new ways to chill public discourse and curb media freedom, Hungary should eliminate existing legal obstacles to media freedom”, Mijatović added.

Source: OSCE.