Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hungary: New repressive regime

From The New York Times Editorial, January 4, 2011
It (the new law in Hungary) creates a press supervision council, all members named by Fidesz (the political party of the new President, Orban), with authority to oversee all broadcast, print and Internet outlets and decide whether their coverage is “unbalanced,” “immoral” or “offensive to human dignity.” If the council disapproves, it can impose crippling fines of up to $1 million.

Mr. Orban’s party, which won a two-thirds parliamentary majority last year, is not stopping there in its grab for power. It has been waging all-out war on the institutional checks and balances designed to protect democracy from domination by a single party.
Fidesz has already passed legislation limiting the powers of Hungary’s constitutional court to review financial measures, including Mr. Orban’s appropriation of pension funds to balance the budget. It has cut funding for the country’s independent fiscal council and packed other important oversight posts with reliable party loyalists. Not content to stop there, Mr. Orban has named a council to rewrite Hungary’s Constitution. Mr. Orban made his name in the late 1980s with his resistance to Soviet repression and his championing of an independent political life. Two decades later, he and his party appear to have forgotten those ideals. ....
Hungarians have refused to quietly fall in line. After Parliament passed the media law last month, several newspapers protested by publishing blank front pages. They deserve strong, continued international support. Mr. Orban may have forgotten, but Hungary’s tragic history has taught its people that a free press — and a checked government — cannot be taken for granted.

To the people of Hungary, the world is watching and supporting your continued resistance to these new measures. Every voice of opposition, individually and collectively, means something, because while these measures are being taken in your country, today, similar measures could befall other countries, if the world does not collectively say, "STOP!"

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