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Hungarian Officials Can Now Censor the Media 185

Posted by Soulskill
from the constant-bleeping dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Hungary is set to regulate the media, including web-published content, under a new law applicable today. The law requires all the media to provide a 'balanced view' and must not go against 'public morality,' and places all publications under the control of a new regulating body, whose top members have all been nominated by Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Orban, whose strong ways have been compared to Putin's, has been tightening his grip over Hungary. 'In the seven months since Orban came to power with a two-thirds parliamentary majority, he has implemented retroactive taxes in violation of the constitution, curbed the Constitutional Court's power, effectively nationalized private pension funds and put ruling-party allies in charge of at least four independent institutions, including the audit office.' Citizens sentenced in application of the new law can still challenge it at the European Court of Human Rights — see you in a few years."
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Hungarian Officials Can Now Censor the Media

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  • You control the people...
  • by DirePickle (796986) on Saturday January 01, 2011 @04:35PM (#34732202)
    Has the industrialized world reached Peak Freedom?
    • by poetmatt (793785)

      some people can't resist trying to go back to the dark ages.

    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      Has the industrialized world reached Peak Freedom?

      We are now dependent on foreign turmoil.

  • New World War (Score:5, Insightful)

    by twidarkling (1537077) on Saturday January 01, 2011 @04:38PM (#34732234)

    It seems like a lot of countries are going on a slide towards dictatorships and totalitarianism, and if it doesn't stop, I'm pretty sure we're going to see World War III, and I'm willing to bet it's within the next 50 years. The problem with WWIII is going to be, it's not going to be countries banding together to stop aggression from another bloc of countries, but fighting for the right to rule over other countries. Russia, USA, UK, Italy, Hungary, China, and North Korea are the ones off the top of my head sliding that way, though there's a bunch of other countries who might give them a run for their money (Iran et al).

    • Re:New World War (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 0123456 (636235) on Saturday January 01, 2011 @04:48PM (#34732322)

      It seems like a lot of countries are going on a slide towards dictatorships and totalitarianism, and if it doesn't stop, I'm pretty sure we're going to see World War III, and I'm willing to bet it's within the next 50 years.

      All governments slide towards dictatorship and totalitarianism because all governments want more power. The best you can do is try to put roadblocks in the way to delay them long enough for enough resistance to get in the way of their plans.

      But most people will cheer for the dictator so long as he promises to give them free stuff paid for with other people's money.

      • And a wise dictators deliver the bread and circuses that keep a population happy. That is until they've delivered the dictator absolute power. People tend towards complacency and cowardice, and a dictator has it made if he can invoke both.

      • And yet there's a huge movement in the US against such socialist evils as treating people's illness regardless of whether the insurance industry's death panels approve.

    • My guess is the next "world war" (more a "worldwide war") will be governments vs. the people.

      • My guess is the next "world war" (more a "worldwide war") will be governments vs. the people.

        My guess is that the next "world war" will be the Last War.

      • by c6gunner (950153)

        My guess is the next "world war" (more a "worldwide war") will be governments vs. the people.

        What the fuck does that even MEAN?

      • My guess is the next "world war" (more a "worldwide war") will be governments vs. the people.

        I believe that's the definition of "civil war".

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          Not really. You can't have much of a war without soldiers. Governments have to get their soldiers from the People (unless they hire foreign mercenaries), so a civil war usually means one group of the People that fights on the side of the existing government, and another group of People who fights against it to overthrow it (or establish a separate autonomous region). It's not like the politicians are going to take up arms and start shooting at their people themselves.

          The idea of a world war of government

        • by Caraig (186934) *

          Well, there's the rising idea that fifth generation warfare involves "super-empowered individuals" at the head of non-governmental, non-political organizations. The flaw in this, of course, is that SEIs are (almost) always citizens of a nation and subject to the protections and prosecutions -- and abuses -- of the laws of their nation. At this time, all a government has to do to shut down an SEI is sic the federal-level law enforcement on them... though for whatever reason they're having remarkable troubl

    • 1, Well, Hungary still doesn't have an Internet filter like Australia (and there's no plan about making one), so you just put your server abroad. The already banned neo-nazi Kurucinfo e.g. hosts its portal in Hong Kong.

      2, This law is quite unpopular even here in Hungary. At the moment it seems unlikely for the governing party (FIDESZ) to win next election.

      3, There's still the possibility to appeal to court. FIDESZ doesn't really have influence there.

      4, The only really problematic part of the law is the requ

    • It seems like a lot of countries are going on a slide towards dictatorships and totalitarianism,

      The world in general is abandoning liberal democracy; largely because liberal democracy is a failed project which has simply degenerated into plutocracy, demagoguery, oligarchy, and market worship.

      Democracy is supposed to be about freedom, progress, opportunity, and education. But since the end of the Cold War, "liberal democracy" became all about the money. Freedom meant "economic freedom", not the freedom to p

      • Heh, heh. You forgot "to the barricades, Comrades!" at the end of your speech. To which country did you emigrate to escape the corporate fascism of your native land? What? You didn't leave? Surprise, surprise.

        You do know that China greatly admires Western democracies and desires to emulate their system? Of course, this won't happen overnight...it will be 50+ years until China is safe for democracy. "Liberal democracy has failed" LOL keep flogging that dead horse. I especially recommend doing this in

  • Yes, for sure, government officials are much more likely to know what a balanced view is than us the common people. Thank God those poor Hungarians don't need to evaluate among different options at the newsstand, the Government has done that for them.

    However, I pity those poor government censors who must look through all that pornography in order to censor it. Their brains will be fried in no time, as happens to everyone who sees pornographic text or images.

  • When libertarians and left wing parties earned the "power", they kind of decieved the populace and we ended up with the extremist right wings getting more influence again.
    I imagine that, as this continues, it will inevitably cause a new libertarian explosion and we will inevitably end up with much more lax and young gouvernments...... Yes am dreaming.
  • As a hungarian... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by A beautiful mind (821714) on Saturday January 01, 2011 @04:46PM (#34732316)
    ...I'd say the new media law is deeply disturbing and it's certainly a step away from democracy, however comparing Hungary to Russia, Belarus or Venezuela does a disservice to describe the state of opression in those countries.

    There is one thing that the election in 2010 taught me: if someone campaigns on vague promises and commits to nothing, then assume the worst of intentions and do not, under any circumstances give the party seeking a large majority a carte blanche.

    It's a weird feeling to see a /. article about Hungary, I don't think that happened many times before. It is warranted as Hungary now holds the rotating EU presidency for the next 6 months and also this has been the worst degradation of democratic freedoms in the country since the fall of the communist run dictatorship that ended in 1990.

    Overall, I think this media law and the government itself will fall, on the medium term (~4 years). This new law and the governing party is already a subject of widespread mockery and nothing corrodes support for a party more than being subject of ridicule. Hungary regained press freedom not long enough ago to have forgotten how precious it is. The governemnt doesn't understand the internet or the state of media.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      >>>There is one thing that the election in 2010 taught me: if someone campaigns on vague promises and commits to nothing

      Sounds familiar. (cough) US 2008. Hopefully the European Union courts will come to the rescue and enforce the constitutional rights enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty. Ex-post facto laws are supposed to be unconstitutional, and ditto suppression of speech, press, and expression.

      • Ex-post facto laws are supposed to be unconstitutional, and ditto suppression of speech, press, and expression.

        The governing party has 2/3 majority. They make the constitution.

    • Allow me a guess (despite being close to Hungary, I have no idea how the campaign went, I was only horrified by the result): They made a lot of wild promises, painted the liberals as pansies and the socialists as communists, belittle everything the previous government achieved and had, at least in hindsight, always known what a huge problem their decisions would cause?

      And now they have achieved nothing themselves, are devoid of any ideas how to improve the situation of the country, can't even come close to

      • They made a lot of wild promises, painted the liberals as pansies and the socialists as communists

        No, the socialists called FIDESZ communist because it was against the privatization of the healthcare system (we have a one-payer system at the moment), and against tuition fees in higher education in state universities.
        And I think that was the reason FIDESZ won. The socialist party turned to libertarian in the autumn of 2006, after they won the elections in spring, which they won by similar blanket campaign promises*. That was the reason of all the rioting (Speech of Öszöd [wikipedia.org]).

        * to be more precise,

      • by Intrinsic (74189)

        I dont know why, but "The Revolution will not be televised" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Id--ZFtjR5c [youtube.com] comes to mind when I hear about this. I know nothing of Hungary, but everywhere I look I see Rich populations rising to power so they can take away basic freedoms from the people. In the U.S Privatization has killed our health care system where the rich stay healthy and the sick get sicker. It seems like in so many countries do not serve its people, but instead serves selfish interests.

      • Huh. A former Communist country having a negative view of Socialists. I wonder what might have caused that idea?
    • by ThunderBird89 (1293256) <zalanmeggyesi&yahoo,com> on Saturday January 01, 2011 @05:25PM (#34732540)

      Being another Hungarian, I am sort of two minds regarding this act.

      On the one hand, it is certainly a step away from democracy, and a rather large one at that. The government, already piling mistake upon mistake, could not have chosen a worse time to pass this act: the first day of our European Union presidency will go down in memory as 'The day censorship was reinstated', even after Angela Merkel voiced concerns that Hungary might not be ready for the presidency after passing such laws.

      On the other hand, the law seems to be at least partially unenforceable: granted, the Media Authority has the power to "order the suspension of broadcasting", but given that while the government does own the airwaves, it does not, by definition, own the internet. Thus, this power cannot be exercised, even though failure to comply may result in the a de facto ban as the broadcaster is stricken from the national registry (but will probably be able to continue its activities online).
      Not to mention that jurisdiction on the internet seems to be a gray area even today. There exist no codified laws or practices on where a lawsuit may be brought against online entities: in the jurisdiction where the server resides, where the entity is headquartered, or where the offender or offended is?

      On the gripping hand, however, this is hardly a relief for those news outlets that still depend on printed press, which, to my knowledge, include all media organs with the exception of two larger online news portals.
      Also of note is the fact that fines may be appealed, as is customary ... after they were paid. This will likely encourage self-censorship, as it will be significantly easier to comply with the regulations than to pay the fine, then go through legal trouble to potentially lose the lawsuit.

      While these measures are certainly harsh, I am glad that we are not yet anywhere near the level of China or Iran. Although, with our drunk-on-power prime minister and his loyal-to-a-fault followers, that may yet come to pass in the new constitution to be approved this year.

      A disclaimer regarding any judicial inaccuracies: I am not a lawyer, and have only taken introductory law courses during my studies.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by rennerik (1256370)
      Also as a Hungarian, while the laws controlling media and empowering censorship *are* rather disturbing (as is their recent ruling against gay marriage and other "moral depravity"), the nationalization of pensions and the overhaul of the tax system was a necessary evil.

      There was so much corruption in the government over the past several decades. Big corporations were funneling money from pensions into private interests and out-of-country. They had their representatives create loopholes in the tax system
      • As an American, you can never, ever be right to praise America, EVER. We are the worst fascist corporatist imperialist system to set foot upon the world. "None of that would fly in the States" go ahead and try that line of thinking with the editors of the New York Times. You will gently be let down and told to get a proper education at the [leftist] universities of the United States.
        • by rennerik (1256370)
          > As an American, you can never, ever be right to praise America, EVER.

          I think most *reasonable* people can tell you when something works in America, versus something that doesn't in another country.

          I think you're right, to an extent, that anti-Americanism is prevalent all over the place. I felt it in Hungary when I was there last, and I feel it here in Canada where I am attending university. But despite all of that, I find the points that people make against America are ill-informed, or hyperboliz
    • by _Sharp'r_ (649297)

      There is one thing that the election in 2010 taught me: if someone campaigns on vague promises and commits to nothing, then assume the worst of intentions and do not, under any circumstances give the party seeking a large majority a carte blanche.

      You could have learned that two years earlier from the 2008 election in the U.S....

  • my point of view (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 01, 2011 @04:51PM (#34732348)

    I'm a Hungarian. I don't really care for politics, I didn't vote, and I only read about these kind of things on news sites. I'm not on the left, right, my philosophy is live and let live.
    This new law is just another item on an already lengthy list of reasons to get a job and settle down in a (hopefully) slightly more civilised western country.
    I'm not trying to compare our situation to the Nazi Germany, but we are heading down a path that doesn't seem too bright. Fascists, nationalists, extremists call themselves politicians, spread hate under the guise of free speech, and people cheer them for doing so. The other party (socialists) stole money, but didn't try to establish a dictatorship. And I can't believe I actually consider that a good thing now.
    At least I didn't vote for any these assholes.

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday January 01, 2011 @05:03PM (#34732412)

      It doesn't cease to amaze me how it's a horrendous crime to embezzle money but it's all right to eliminate freedom. Don't worry, you're in good company. Or bad company, depends on how you want to see it.

      I can live with politicians that line their pockets. We came to get used to it, and it's not like I'd expect the current leaders of Hungary to abstain from it. But when only facing the choice between politicians that steal my money, and politicians that steal my money and eliminate my liberty, I guess the choice is... well, the lesser evil.

      • We have a very similar phenomenon in the US: With the exception of a few genuine, self-consistent libertarians(who are usually kept safely away from any of the levers and buttons that actually do stuff) Our politics are absolutely infested with people who think that a 3% delta in the tax rate on a given income bracket is the difference between freedom and slavery; but consider the executive branch's claim of the right to abduct and torture whoever they want to be irrelevant to national freedom metrics.

        As
      • ...and the reason they stole your liberty was?

        All politicians are crooks and thieves. You should rail against their power at every opportunity. Unfortunately no country on earth has the constitution required to implement true freedom. It will take another revolution is some major country for it to happen and that seems relatively unlikely given the control politicians have over the media today. They use psychology and mass media to steer the uneducated masses towards the choices they pick for us. Even the m
        • by KDR_11k (778916)

          How often do revolutions result in actual freedom instead of the revolutionary leaders deciding that they have all the power to implement their own military dictatorship now?

      • by Dan667 (564390)
        money enables freedom or can be used to take away freedom. Politicians that line their pockets typically do so to take away your freedoms.
      • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Saturday January 01, 2011 @07:25PM (#34733398) Journal
        They get away with it because few people care. Especially since the law is supposed to uphold decency in the media. A lot of people actually think that's a good thing... until it's their point of view that gets censored.

        These laws are all over the place, and they generally start small. In the Netherlands, there already is a law for websites with child pornography (what else? *rolls eyes*), which can be ordered shut down and/or blocked without intervention of a judge. There have been recent proposals to extend this law to cover sites with hatred-inciting or discriminatory content, or stuff that threatens public order. In other words, covering "anything we don't like". The proposal was shot down, thankfully. But even the mere the fact that this motion was tabled at all is a shameful, shameful blot on our institution of government.

        But this is by no means a new thing. Searches and wiretaps for instance, used to require a judge's go-ahead, but that was done away a few decades ago with "for convenience". No one cared. The prosecutor's office can now order searches, and wiretaps can be requested by pretty much anyone involved in police investigations, to the point where there are now more wiretaps being conducted in the Netherlands than in the rest of Europe combined. And as for searches, even city mayors now have the power to order these, for crying out loud. They can (and have one so on several occasions) order searches on no suspicion whatsoever, and/or do a door to door search of an entire neighborhood. The pretext is just fire safety, but they will enter homes with a whole team of officials checking for varied things like stolen goods, firearms, marihuana plantations, false social benefits claims, electricity theft, illegal subletting, and so on. And for those who think these are not real, official searches... if you're not at home and it's the 3rd time they've found you absent, they will open your front door with the "municipal key" (i.e. a crowbar), and fail to compensate you for the broken lock even if they find nothing.

        That is the state of our country... sounds a bit like East Germany, but nobody gives a shit. So, am I worried about freedom of our media? Well yes... if they can get away with the above, then who will raise a hue and cry over something as "reasonable" as media censorship?
    • I think you may be rushing things a little bit. If those jerks, after all these proto-fascist laws that they have enacted, get re-elected for another term - then your concerns are warranted and you would probably do good to seek a different country with more liberally minded people. But if they get kicked out right and proper, then that's democracy at work, and you staying and voting would help things.

    • by Teun (17872)

      At least I didn't vote for any these assholes.

      Oh? But you started with:

      I don't really care for politics, I didn't vote,

      When you're not against it you're for it!

    • by Asic Eng (193332)
      I didn't vote, and I only read about these kind of things on news sites.

      So you had a chance to vote but you'd rather not do anything for your country - not even a little trip down to the voting booth.

      settle down in a (hopefully) slightly more civilised western country.

      Because they urgently need more people who will do fuck all for the country they live in?

  • It should be a warning for all those that follow right-populist parties and their diffuse "promises". More work, fewer immigrants, less crime, eliminating abuse of social services... sounds familiar?

    Also familiar that they do not tell you just how they want to do it?

    When facing a politician and his promises, why (usually the single important question) is not really going to give you insight whether the emperor has pants. How is the question you should ask. If he has no answer, write the windbag off.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      It should be a warning for all those that follow right-populist parties and their diffuse "promises". More work, fewer immigrants, less crime, eliminating abuse of social services... sounds familiar?

      That sounds a lot like the left-wing parties in the UK in the 1970s. With the possible exception of the last part.

      The BNP in the UK, for example, are repeatedly called 'far-right' by the left-wing media, but as far as I've seen their policies are basically those of the left-wing Labour party of the 70s with a bit more explicit racism on top.

      • by KDR_11k (778916)

        It's the explicit racism that usually gets a party labeled as right-extremist. I have no idea what e.g. the NPD's fiscal policies are and I'd wager neither do they.

    • by sourcerror (1718066) on Saturday January 01, 2011 @06:01PM (#34732834)

      In Hungary left and right wing means completely the opposite than in the US. It was actually the socialist party which promotes the small government, free trade agenda.

      • "Right" is no longer "small government, free trade, free people". "Right" today is much closer to fascism.

        • by KDR_11k (778916)

          "Right" used to be pro-serfdom, pro-aristocracy, pro-imperialism. Their small government used to mean "one emperor, nobody else!"

    • More work, fewer immigrants, less crime, eliminating abuse of social services.

      On the immigration issue: there aren't many immigrants in Hungary, as the wages are rather low; they usually tend to drift to western countries, after all, it's quite easy to move once you crossed the Schengen borders.
      In 2004 however there's was a vote about wether to give back the Hungarian citizenship to the people who were stripped of it after WW1 due to the Trianon treaty, and the socialsts were the ones opposing it. (They thought FIDESZ is more popular among the Hungarians living abroad.)

  • Strength through purity. Purity through faith!
  • "he has implemented retroactive taxes in violation of the constitution, curbed the Constitutional Court's power, effectively nationalized private pension funds and put ruling-party allies in charge of at least four independent institutions..."

  • It's easy for people to be nice and polite and generous in times of peace and plenty, but during these evil times we're living in, it seems you find out what people are really like.
  • What happened to the world? Didn't every country in the "Western World" praise democracy and freedom of speech as the ultimate goal of the government until now? And now these idiots collectively decided that these can't give them enough power and changed their minds. China has long been famous for being a police state, but now the US of A have started moving - no, racing - in that direction. PATRIOT Act? TSA? WikiLeaks?

    I wonder that the majority of the world has let them act like this until now. I honestly

    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      I'm pretty sure in the next few years or decades, things are going to change very quickly. History is repeating itself for the nth time. How long will that continue?

      Until humans are genetically engineered to not be envious, prideful, and greedy.

      It probably would help a whole lot if we could genetically identify sociopathy, and preemptively eliminate anyone who has it.
       

    • Uh...guy? Hungary was not in the West. It was rather firmly in the East. It tried to join our side, but was was thankfully put down by the forces of scientific socialism [wikipedia.org] and prevented from making a huge mistake.

      Oh, and dude? I live in China. It's not a police state. Please stop saying that. Kthx!

    • Uh...guy? Hungary was not in the West. It was rather firmly in the East. It tried to join our side, but was was thankfully put down by the forces of scientific socialism [wikipedia.org] and prevented from making a huge mistake.

      Oh, and dude? I live in China. It's not a police state. Please stop saying that. Kthx!

  • Pattern detect ? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jace_d (1955838) on Saturday January 01, 2011 @05:49PM (#34732744)
    if I may ask, in which other countries has there recently been proposed a new law for media censorship or something similar and in which countries is some sort of media censorship already being practiced ? i know that In south africa there was a proposed bill very recently.
    • When discussing the media law here in Hungary there was mentioned that the Britain has the Ofcom, which is similar to the Hungarian media authority, and it has ties to the British government as well, since its members are elected by the secretary of state.

      • Ofcom doesn't have any control over what the media can or can't say, else most of the press would be in deep trouble.

        • Well, we don't whether the Hungarian media authority can or cannot. The problem is the vagueness of the law. We will see how it will be applied.

    • by toriver (11308)

      Italy for instance, where "il Berluscono grande" tries to morph the laws to shield himself and his party as much as possible. Especially to suppress the videos of him happily singing Musolini-era songs at neo-fascist rallies...

  • I know this sounds outrageous but you have to go to an Eastern European country to see the amount of shit that satura the media.
  • please support an international blackout in protest against these undemocratic measures: http://blackout4hungary.net/ [blackout4hungary.net] also follow #blackout4hu

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