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2001 January - April

January: the chairmanship of FKGP trusts Béla Pokol, a small-holder member of Parliament, with renovating and introducing to Parliament the so-called lex Pokol bill. The National Federation of Hungarian Journalists (MÚOSZ) chairmanship finds it contrary to the Constitution the proposed law, which, if adopted, would make it possible in the press to have opinions corrected. The chairmanship believes that adopting such a law would severely hurt the free expression of opinion and the freedom of the press.

In January as well, MSZP decides they will support the government proposed amendment to the Media Act, but only if the empty chairmanships in the public media advisory board are filled by opposition members.

A new national public press agency in the electronic media will be set up, largely with government money. The Carpathian basin regional news agency would mainly give information about life in Hungarian communities and events in bordering countries where Hungarians live.

February: According to László Majtényi, programme providers do not have to produce the labour contracts of television and radio editors at the request of background-checking judges. They must communicate just the data that are needed to do a background checking.
Since MTV employees in Szeged, Pécs and Miskolc have not been paid for five months, the studio in Szeged starts a 48 hour demonstration on February the 15th.

In February and March Fidesz scraps Béla Pokol's Opinion Correction bill and suggests instead that, if some assertion is published in the press that violates someone's individual rights, then the person concerned can ask the media involved in the assertion to publish his own opinion as well. According to MÚOSZ, Fidesz's proposal differs from the lex-Pokol only in its wording, but is, as regards substance, the same. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) also criticizes the proposal. As they say, such a rule is known nowhere else in the world. Neither the opposition nor the Publicity Club support the motion introduced by six deputies from Fidesz and referred to as lex Repassy. Besides damages due to the concerned persons, the motion would introduce a special compulsory fine that would be paid to the State, which would make the future of more than one classical genre in the press (caricature, satire, etc.) uncertain. Robert Repassy justifies his motion by saying that protecting individual rights has priority over everything else.

In March László Juszt, editor-in-chief of the former weekly programme named Kriminális, asks for 100 million forints in nominal damages from the ORFK because of a violation of his individual rights, in a suit starting at the Court in the capital.

In the same month, based on a ruling by the ORTT complaint commission, Naptévé must make a public apolgy because, during one of their broadcasts, the TV host clearly sympathized with the standpoint of one of the debaters and conducted the programme accordingly.

In March, four non-profit radio stations have to compete for only one frequency in Budapest. Rádió C, the Roma radio station, is selected by the ORTT. Zoltán Rozhonyi, representing Tilos Rádió (Forbidden Radio) demands that there should be more frequencies for non-profit radios. He adds that the present sitation, when there is only one non-profit station for six commercial stations, contradicts the Media Act that calls for a proportion of one to two.

In March as well, András Schiffer, a lawyer, turns to the Constitutional Court because of changes made to the law concerning commercial advertising. First, the law being enacted soon after being voted, there was not enough time left for people to adjust to the changes and this is not proper for a Constitutional State. Thus the freedom of speech be severely restricted if preliminary censorship was introduced.

In the end of March, MTV's board trusts the deputy chairman with running public television until a new chairman is elected. The Board also adopts a business plan for the next six months. The plan focuses on job cutting, programme rebroadcasting, witholding clothing bonuses, selling the whole real estate, and licence fees. The sale of archival material is not considered.

The members of the board state that, in so far as they cannot look into MTV contracts of agency any more, they will turn to the Public Prosecutor.
On March the 30th, the next Public Media civil nominees were selected. While such groups as the Association of Women for the Balaton Lake or the National Federation of Hungarian Retired People Associations are allowed to nominate trustees, MÚOSZ is not.

In March and April, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) released a report stating that the media crisis mars Hungary's image abroad and endangers the current negotiations about its joining the EU. That is why the IFJ and the European Federation of Journalists ask for an examination of the case by the European Commission and the Council of Europe.

In April as well, the Internet portals state that during the period of campaign silence, they will not publish any new or newly edited material that could in any way have an effect upon the election results. Since, as it is known, the Media Act contains no provision about the Internet media, this will happen on a self-regulating basis.

It beckons known in April that, contrary to the lex Pokol, the lex Répássy is not supported by MIÉP.

During the same month, 141 people are dismissed without notice from Magyar Televízió. Managers, advisers and responsible editors are, along with 18 people working in senior positions, affected by the decision.

On the first of April, Happy End Kft. obtains for the second time a public commission by winning the bid named Ország.Imázs (National Image), and can hence spend 4.2 billion forints in order to shape Hungary's image both at home and abroad. According to Magyar Hírlap's information, the competitive design does not fit professional requirements. According to Index's information, Happy End Kft. wants to spend two thirds of the sum on the Hungarian campaign, which experts believe is not customary in a campaign designed at improving national image. According to Magyar Hírlap, the slogans intended are the same as the messages you can read on the new posters of Fidesz members of Parliament.

In April as well, the Center for National Image (OK), without any preliminary impact study, starts a counter-campaign in Slovenia, on television and in other media, where Amnesty International's campaign has been aired and published. Happy End Kft. carries out the counter-campaign. According to OK the Amnesty campaign can give way to generalizations and can have a negative effect on Hungary's image. Anne Burley, regional programme manager for A.I., believes on the contrary that the advertising of Amnesty Internationl Slovene branch does not convey any wrong information about police torture and abuse.

Also in April, it becomes known that several thousand Hungarian citizens have not been questioned during census by genuine census-takers, but by security officers belonging to the ORFK Regiment of the Republic. On order of the Home Minister, Sandor Pinter, the officers of the government guard have mainly worked in the neighborhoods where leading politicians and senior civil servants live. According to the Publicity Club and the Human Right Information and Documentation Center, the state power has infringed the citizens' fundamental rights. The opposition thinks similarly that laws have been broken during the census. To the contrary, the speaker for the Home Ministry declares that no secret violation occured. According to MDF and MIÉP these events are not worth mentionning.

In the annual report of Freedom House, a New-York-based institute, it appears that from the point of view of press freedom, Hungary belongs to the "free" category, though in the lower section. Regarding the written press, the institute states that the governing parties newspapers enjoy advantages with respect to the advertising of state-owned companies.

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