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Hungary Failed to Resolve Media Concerns, EU’s Kroes Says

Hungary has failed to resolve concerns about media freedom as the government has implemented “only a fraction” of the recommendations to deal with the issue, according to European Union Commissioner Neelie Kroes.

“Issues of media freedom are not yet solved; only a fraction of the Council of Europe recommendations have been implemented,” Kroes said of Hungary in the text of a speech to be delivered today in Dublin. The award of a frequency to opposition radio Klubradio this month after a series of lawsuits was “welcome,” Kroes said.

The EU needs to increase its focus on protecting “fundamental freedoms” such as media pluralism in the bloc, said Kroes, who is in charge of the digital agenda at the EU executive. The EU wants to strengthen the independence of media regulators from government influence, she said.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has extended his influence over independent institutions since winning a two-thirds parliamentary majority in 2010, including by overhauling the media regulator, which is now led exclusively by ruling-party appointees. On March 11, lawmakers backed a constitutional amendment to curtail judicial authority and limit election-campaign ads outside of state-run television.

Hungary has made “significant progress” including on addressing media-law concerns, Council of Europe Secretary-General Thorbjoern Jagland said on Jan. 29. These included proposed amendments such as limiting the mandate of the president of the media authority to one nine-year term.

Concerns about the media are not limited to Hungary, Kroes said, citing the “excessive concentration” of media ownership in Bulgaria and the phone-hacking scandal in the United Kingdom.

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