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Home / Press review / Archive / Press review | 22/12/2010

 

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Hungary tightens its grip on the media

 

Hungary's right-wing conservative government passed a restrictive media law on Monday night. As of January 1 a new authority will control the public television and radio broadcasters, as well as private media. Commentators say this attack on press freedom augurs poorly for Hungary's presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Die Welt - Germany

On the way to becoming an authoritarian state

The newly created Authority for Media Supervision in Hungary (NMHH) will have far-reaching powers for controlling the public media and sanctioning newspapers and websites. A veritable monstrosity, the conservative daily Die Welt concludes: "From censorship to the confiscation of documents to the material ruin of critical media, this is everything an authoritarian government could wish for. What we have here is nothing short of a ministry for controlling public opinion and glorification of the powers that be. The top jobs go to party hacks and minions of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. ... If Austria's interlude with Jörg Haider was an operette, what's happening in Hungary is a full-fledged tragedy. The only difference is that the European Union still bothered to take exception to what was going on in Austria, and punished the country by relegating it to the penalty corner. In the case of Hungary nothing is happening at all, although it's clear the country is on the path to becoming an authoritarian state, and that this hasn't happened overnight. The freedom that Hungary won for itself and others two decades ago is on the verge of being lost." (22/12/2010)

La Stampa - Italy

A bad start to EU presidency

Hungary could hardly have chosen a worse way to launch into its EU Council presidency, writes the liberal daily La Stampa commenting on the country's restrictive new media law: "In normal times it would have been simply an objectionable law, but coming nine days before the begin of Hungary's first EU Council presidency it is at best a worrying start. ... Bursting with pride, Foreign Minister János Martonyi has announced in Brussels Hungary's ambition to enter the EU arena as 'the torero and not the bull', to contribute to the establishment of a 'humane Europe'. This intention isn't very compatible with legislation law that is already been branded a gag law. ... The criterion of 'damaging to public interests' is alarming because it is a vague and very generalised formulation. Even to write that this is a gag law could harm the interests of Hungary." (22/12/2010)

Hírszerző - Hungary

The end of press freedom

Press freedom will be in for rough times once Hungary's new media law goes into effect on January 1, 2011, writes the news portal Hírszerző: "It goes without saying that the media law will be put into practice, meaning that self-censorship will once more be a matter of course for large parts of the Hungarian public. Furthermore it is practically certain that many editors and publishers will attempt to adapt to the 'changed legal environment' and make fine adjustments regarding content. What awaits us as of January is anything but funny. No one should be under the illusion that the government majority's crusade will spare the free press. ... We have to brace ourselves for the fact that the government and its media authorities will systematically try to bleed dry the publishing houses that are critical of its policies, or at least force them to adopt a neutral or more well-disposed attitude." (22/12/2010)

POLITICS

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Evenimentul Zilei - Romania

Romania not ready for Schengen

Germany and France have decided to reject the bid by Bulgaria and Romania to join the Schengen Zone for the time being, a letter written by the interior ministers of the two countries to the EU Commission indicates. The daily Evenimentul Zilei can understand why: "The Europeans have every reason to be afraid. If we join the Schengen Area they will be invaded by an army of illegal immigrants, terrorists, weapons and drugs that trickle across a border under the surveillance of easily bribed police officers. Can you imagine what commissioners like Mr Soric [a local police chief whose alleged ties to the underworld are currently under investigation] would do if they had access to the European police data bank? Imagine how much money they could earn warning criminals wanted in the Netherlands or Italy. The decision of France and Germany to postpone Romania's accession to the Schengen zone is justified." (22/12/2010)

Blog Aktuálně.cz - Czech Republic

Czech president acts like prime minister

The conservative Czech coalition government was barely able to fend off a motion of no confidence on Tuesday, after a corruption affair led to conflict between the governing Civic Democratic Party (ODS) under prime minister Petr Nečas and its coalition partner Public Affairs. It was only a crisis summit called by president Václav Klaus that brought the small party back into line and got it to vote for the government. Political scientist Tomáš Haas voices criticism in his blog for Aktuálně.cz: "As of today we have a presidential government. An unsual thing, measured against our constitution. Even more unusual is that this presidential government is ruling on the basis of an inter-party agreement that is supposed to guarantee the rights of its participants. When the government was formed after the elections, the president praised its majority as the most stable in a long time. ... And now this government has almost been toppled after less than a year in power." (22/12/2010)

Neatkarīgā - Latvia

Belarus can choose its own path

In Belarus, mass protests against the manipulated election of President Alexander Lukashenko have been brutally suppressed and the country's courts have sentenced just under 600 government opponents to between five and fifteen days behind bars in summary proceedings. However the country must be allowed to follow its own path, writes the national conservative daily Neatkarīgā Rīta Avīze: "The voters have expressed their trust in Lukashenko and he has made it clear that there will be no Orange Revolution in Minsk. Whatever the case, Belarus is our neighbour and we share not only a long border but also a joint power grid and depend on each other: Belarus needs our ports and we need the Belarusian transit goods. ... We must accept that each nation chooses its own path. And we must be honest with ourselves: The Latvian model is not ideal and therefore we can't impose it on others. Before we start preaching to others we must ourselves be convinced that everyone feels secure and well looked after in our own system." (22/12/2010)

REFLECTIONS

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Eleftherotypia - Greece

Elisabetta Casalotti on new communities after the crisis

The revolts of angered citizens in European capitals are a symptom of the crisis which will produce new types of communities, writes Elisabetta Casalotti in the left-liberal daily Eleftherotypia: "The rebellion means the destruction, the collapse, with which the new economic regimes have made us familiar. It is the answer of a society that apparently no longer has a solid basis or theory to justify its sovereignty, except repression and the use of violence in all its forms. ... Some talk of an incomplete work of art, while for others it's a necessary evil resulting from historical circumstances. There is no doubt that the times have changed and the ideologies of our fathers and grandfathers are obsolete. However for some hopeless romantics who are at the same time realists, the loneliness and desperation of this age and of the rebels will inevitably make way for new forms of collectivity: a new 'we' that will confront the claustrophobic 'I' of those who have lost all trust or hope." (21/12/2010)

Le Monde - France

Jafar Panahi defends the freedom of Iranian cinema

The Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi has been sentenced to six years in prison for criticising the Iranian government, and has been banned from travelling and exercising his profession for 20 years. His colleague Mohammad Rasoulof was also sentenced to six years. Panahi speaks out in his own defence in the left-liberal daily Le Monde: "To judge us is to judge all committed, social and humanitarian Iranian filmmakers. Our cinema aims to stand above good and evil, it does not judge and does not toady to power and money. It simply does its best to convey a realistic image of society. I have been accused of wanting to promote the spirit of revolt. Yet throughout my career I have always claimed to be a social, not a political director, giving expression to social, and not political preoccupations. I have never sought to put myself in the place of a judge or a prosecutor. It's not to judge that I became a filmmaker, but to show things as they are." (21/12/2010)

ECONOMY

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Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

China offers Brussels expensive help

China wants to take "concrete measures" to help with the management of Europe's debt crisis, Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Wang Qishan said on Tuesday at the China-EU High Level Economic and Trade Dialogue in Beijing. The help will be very welcome, writes the business paper Il Sole 24 Ore, but adds that China is not acting unselfishly in this matter: "The EU is China's most important trade partner. A potential implosion of the euro or even continued economic stagnation on the Old Continent would have an extremely negative impact on Chinese exports. Then there are the political considerations. By helping Athens and Lisbon and promising Europe financial support in an emergency China is giving Brussels a blank check. Sooner or later Beijing will want to see returns on this investment - with generous interest. And Europe won't be able to refuse to fulfil its obligations." (22/12/2010)

Aftonbladet - Sweden

Europe neglects its infrastructure

Travellers all over Europe are suffering the consequences of snow and cold weather. Siim Kallas, EU Commissioner for Transport, has said it is unacceptable that the snow has caused such chaos and called for measures to avoid a repetition of the current situation. The daily Aftonbladet, however, sees little chance of improvement: "Infrastructure is among those things that economists tend to describe as a typical market fiasco. It's difficult to make money with it. But when it doesn't work society stops working. ... In the process of modernisation we have all become more dependent on the joint infrastructure. Yet at the same time society seems to shrink from this communal task, particularly as far as maintenance is concerned. You can score political points with a new railway line - especially for high-speed trains - or with an impressive motorway. But attracting support for the dreary task of modernising switchpoints, de-iceing trains or clearing snow appears to be virtually impossible." (22/12/2010)

Rzeczpospolita - Poland

Bank profits positive sign for Polish economy

According to analysts' estimates, Poland's banks have made profits upwards of 2.5 billion euros this year, and in the coming year they are expected to turn a profit of around 3.5 billion euros. This is a good omen for the entire economy, writes the conservative daily Rzeczpospolita: "There is fierce competition in the banking sector. The prices for bank services are generally lower in Poland that in more developed countries. If the profits of the banks can rise so considerably during such difficult times bodes well for the economy as a whole. However these figures should not prompt the government to make the banks pay an additional tax next year. Experts expect the value of mortgages to increase by 10 percent. This is the signal to go ahead with the construction of 20,000 to 30,000 new homes." (22/12/2010)

SOCIETY

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Helsingin Sanomat - Finland

Sweden mocks rape victims

The hunt for the suspected rapist and Wikileaks boss Julian Assange does not show the Swedish judicial system in a good light, as Sweden has hitherto failed to distinguish itself in the prosecution of international sex crimes, writes the author Sofi Oksanen in the daily Helsingin Sanomat: "Sweden has shown that it allows its laws on sex crime to be used to fulfil foreign policy objectives. But this makes a mockery of the victims of such crimes worldwide. The case of Assange shows how easily charges can be brought against someone. For many rape victims this is completely incomprehensible. ... How many UN employees have faced charges for their activities in bordellos established for their use in the Balkans? ... How many of the rapists in the Balkans are known by name? How active is Sweden on this issue? Sweden has now shown [with the Assange case] that it is able to take international action in an area where that is otherwise nigh on impossible." (22/12/2010)

Jornal de Notícias - Portugal

Santa Claus giving on credit

While Santa Claus is pinching his pennies all over the world, in Portugal he is still on a spending spree, writes the daily Jornal de Notícias: "He's got to fulfil the wishes of children who've been transformed into little consumernauts by the advertising onslaught. And if he runs out of money the creditors are standing by, ready to suck his last reserves from him with their interest rates. ... Loans are easy to obtain but hard to repay. These businesses promise paradise and then drive people into hell. ... Their loans make it impossible for low-earning households to get by - and destroy the family equilibrium. ... We, the Christmas parents of Portugal, demand that Santa Claus ban all advertising targeting children under 14 next year - just like in other European countries. And that he abolish all loans with shamefully high interest rates, to prevent childhood joys from sooner or later becoming parental sadness." (22/12/2010)

The Guardian - United Kingdom

Royal Mail may remove Queen's head

The British government wants to sell the Royal Mail to a foreign corporation. The result could mean "off with her head" on stamps, bucking the custom of the last 150 years. But the loss of the Queen's head could mean a gain for the business, writes the left-liberal daily The Guardian: "Even if you don't accept the modernising argument for change, it's hard to counter the commercial one. For many years now, the Royal Mail's postal division has been losing money hand over fist, a victim of both technology and its own unreliability. And just about the only revenue-raising plan the Royal Mail has ever come up with is to release more and more commemorative issues to drum up business. ... The first issue without [the Queen's image] would be one that collectors simply wouldn't be able to ignore. There are few cause celebres in the philatelic world, but this would most certainly would be one. It won't happen, of course." (22/12/2010)

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