Hungarian Press Freedom Ends

January 4, 2011 Updated: January 4, 2011

The front pages of two Hungarian newspapers were totally dedicated to protesting a new media law, which came into effect on Jan. 1.

“The freedom of the press in Hungary comes to an end,” read Nepszabadsag’s front page in the 22 official languages of the European Union.

“Freedom of the press is a fundamental right in a EU member state. We must defend our democratic rights in Hungary. We demand freedom of the press,” shows the website of another left-leaning paper, Nepszava, before actually being directed to the homepage.

The new law imposes fines on private media organizations for “unbalanced” news coverage, which according to Karin Karlekar, managing editor of Freedom House, has created an “environment conducive to significant misuse, especially given the extremely polarized political environment in the country,” the Freedom House website states.

The fines for papers can run up to 90,000 euros (US$120,000). The internationally disputed law took effect Saturday, the same day that Hungary took over the rotating presidency of the European Union.