CENTRAL and Eastern Europe’s first online Christian news agency, BosNewsLife was ordered recently to register with the Hungarian authorities under a new controversial law that critics say is part of a crackdown on independent media.
According to a story posted on their website, Hungary’s media watchdog, the National Media and Infocommunications Authority (NMHH), said that the Budapest-based BosNewsLife had until June 30, 2011, to register.
“As the website is already working, it will have to meet the conditions,” of relevant paragraphs of the new media legislation, wrote NMHH’s Ditta Boncz, who heads the authority’s tenders and legal department. Boncz made the announcement in an e-mail exchange with BosNewsLife.
It was not immediately clear what sanctions would follow if BosNewsLife refuses to register with the NMHH, whose key members were appointed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party.
Under the new law electronic media such as BosNewsLife could face fines of over $100,000 and broadcasters nearly $1 million if their news coverage is deemed unbalanced, immoral or violating human dignity.
BosNewsLife founder Stefan J. Bos, a Dutch journalist based in Hungary, said he was concerned about this development “as even English language media and foreign journalists working in Hungary will now be subject to government control.”
Bos said that his agency ran “balanced but critical stories” about the media legislation and other government policies, “as well as an opinionated-column on Prime Minister Orban turning Hungary into Orbanistan” — a reference to autocratic Central Asian nations.
“I am wondering if that will increase the government pressure on BosNewsLife to register,” he went on to say. “It also reminds me to the Communist days when media, and churches, had to register.”