Media Group: EU Too Soft on Hungary

Media Group: EU Too Soft on Hungary

BRUSSELS (AP) -- An international press freedom group says the European Union has been too lenient in its treatment of media abuses in Hungary and accuses it of economic bias in defending the rights of journalists.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in Tuesday's report "Balancing Act" that the 28-nation bloc was struggling to match its lofty human rights standards with its day-to-day actions in protecting journalists around the world.

"There are significant challenges that undermine press freedom and new threats are emerging," the report concluded.

Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said he had no comment on the CPJ report.

Hungary has come under intense scrutiny since Prime Minister Viktor Orban came to power and professed he wanted to turn Hungary into an "illiberal state" like Russia and China, where press freedoms are also under intense pressure.

Even though EU institutions including its legislature have criticized Orban, firm action has yet to be pushed through.

"By not holding member states to account, the EU has failed to forcefully and consistently defend press freedom," the CPJ said.

Under Orban, "the state media have been turned into pro-government mouthpieces, state advertising has been used to reward friends and punish dissenters, independent journalists have been marginalized, and limits have been imposed on its Freedom of Information Act law," the report said.

There also have been incidents during the migrant crisis in Hungary earlier this month. The Associated Press has protested the brief detention of one of its journalists by police as he covered migrants crossing the border, saying he was forced to delete footage that included images of a police dog knocking down a refugee. Hungary has disputed the account.

Though the member nations still control much decision-making on press freedom, the CPJ said the EU should do more by enforcing rules on public broadcasting, the digital agenda and rights issues. And it said the EU should be more even-handed in criticizing outside nations.

"The EU is inconsistent," the report said. "This approach allows for situations where a country such as Burundi, with little strategic value, can be more severely reprimanded for its actions than China."