In case you don't know what LIBE stands for–I didn't until now–it is the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee of the European Parliament. The extraordinary meeting was held in Strasbourg tonight between 19:15 and 20:45. The Hungarian government was represented by Tibor Navracsics.
Let me start by noting that Magyar Nemzet with great fanfare announced this morning that according to an unnamed official of the European Commission the commissioner in charge of the case, Neelie Kroes, found nothing wrong with the media law. Other newspapers by now know that one has to be extremely careful when it comes to news coming from Magyar Nemzet. Thus HVG immediately got in touch with the spokesman of Neelie Kroes, Jonathan Todd, who called the news entirely wrong.
And indeed, the commissioner and her staff found plenty wrong with the Hungarian media law at first reading. A closer look will be forthcoming.
The first problem is that the media law has jurisdiction over media services originating in other countries, which is not in harmony with union directives.
The second concern is that the Hungarian media law extends the demand for balanced reporting in radio and television broadcasting to on-demand media services, including blogs. This particular part of the law is not written in a clear and concise fashion and thus in individual cases might lead to too great a discretion on the part of the authorities and thus may create "disproportionate regulation of media freedom."
And third, because of the vague language there is the possibility of "overly obtrusive application of media rules."
And Kroes and her staff haven't quite finished with their investigation of the details of the law. She added that she hopes that "Hungary will take all the necessary steps to make the new media law to conform to the laws of the European Union." She reminded her audience that the Hungarian prime minister had made it clear that the Hungarian government was ready to make changes if the European Commission, after finishing the legal investigation of the law, finds deficiencies in it as it now stands. Kroes expressed her hope that the Hungarian government's promises are "adequate assurances" that the changes will be made.
For the time being we don't know what Tibor Navracsics had to say to all that.