Media Rights Group Scolds EU As Too Soft on Hungary

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An international press freedom group chastises the European Union for being too lenient in its treatment of media abuses in member state Hungary and accuses it of economic bias in defending the rights of journalists.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in Tuesday’s report “Balancing Act” that the 28-nation bloc was struggling to match its lofty human rights standards with its day-to-day actions in protecting journalists around the world.

The report concluded that “there are significant challenges that undermine press freedom and new threats are emerging,” the report concluded.

Hungary has come under intense scrutiny since Prime Minister Viktor Orban came to power and openly professed he wanted to turn Hungary into an “illiberal state,” citing nations like Russia and China where press freedoms are also under intense pressure.

Even though EU institutions like its legislature have criticized Orban, firm action has yet to be pushed through.

“By not holding member states to account, the EU has failed to forcefully and consistently defend press freedom,” the CPJ said.

It said that under Orban, “the state media have been turned into pro-government mouthpieces, state advertising has been used to reward friends and punish dissenters, independent journalists have been marginalized, and limits have been imposed on its Freedom of Information Act law.”

There also have been incidents during the migrant crisis in Hungary earlier this month. The Associated Press has protested the brief detention of one of its journalists by police as he covered migrants crossing the border, saying he was forced to delete footage that included images of a police dog knocking down a refugee. Hungary has disputed the account.

The CPJ said that even though the member nations themselves still control much decision-making on press freedom, the EU should do more by enforcing rules on public broadcasting, the digital agenda and rights issues.

If the EU fails to control its own member states, it is also unable to enforce media freedom standards when it deals with third countries. And the CPJ said the EU does not have a level playing field.

“EU is inconsistent,” the conclusions of the report said. “This approach allows for situations where a country such as Burundi, with little strategic value, can be more severely reprimanded for its actions than China.”