The European Newspaper Publishers' Association (ENPA) and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), have expressed concern at a draft law in Hungary that would impose extensive fines against journalists and publishers if they refuse to disclose their sources or publish information deemed inappropriate by the government.
The proposed law, if passed, would seriously endanger freedom of the press by creating room for a subjective judgment about any individual news story and penalise publishers and editors through government-controlled regulatory bodies. The proposal could dramatically limit objective news media.
"We are deeply concerned that this law poses a serious threat to freedom of the press and would, in particular, have a significant negative impact on investigative journalism," ENPA and WAN-IFRA said in a letter to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
The international press organisations called on the government to urgently revise the current package of draft legislation to ensure that it serves its proper function of enhancing Hungarian democracy.
"The fact that a government controlled body will supervise what is allowed and what is not allowed in the press is a major step back and is contrary to democratic principles such as freedom of press as well as universal human rights," the press organisations said in a statement. "The harm will be enormous both to the quality of journalism and the range and independence of information."
"The proposed law would, in particular, have a significant negative impact on investigative journalism, editorial independence and articles based on information provided by whistleblowers. We trust that the Hungarian government will reconsider this legislation and ensure the full functioning of democracy and rule of law in Hungary," ENPA and WAN-IFRA stated in their letter to Prime Minister.
For the full text of the letter please see here.