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hvg.hu

“In none other EU member states is the entire media sector subordinated to a single commission, whose members belong to a single political party and are nominated exclusively by the government “ - said Jean Asselborn, Foreign Minister of Luxemburg, in an exclusive interview to HVG Online, one of Hungary’s leading news portal. He announced that the EU commission has started already talks about the new Hungarian Media Law. Sanctions are not considered yet.

hvg.hu: Your comment on the Hungarian Media Law caused great reverberation both in Hungary and internationally. Why did you feel  it was important to raise your voice?

Jean Asselborn: The European Union is a community based not only on economic integration and common laws, but in the first place, on common democratic values. We are thereby linked closely to each other. Therefore, above all, in matters concerning these values, internal affairs in one member state always affect other member states as well. So there is a bundle of good reasons to raise one’s voice if a member state risks leaving the common basis of democracy and universal human rights.

Unfortunately, this is – in my opinion – the case with Hungary’s  new media law. In none of the other EU member states is the entire media sector subordinated to a single commission, whose members belong to a single political party and are nominated exclusively by the government. Quite the opposite: in Germany and Great Britain for example, councils of the press practice self control. In Germany, even radio and television channels under public law are controlled by bodies with a pluralistic composition, including editors and publishers. The  situation is similar more or less in all EU member states, only Hungary makes now exception. I have to underline that in democracy the role of the media is to control the government, and not the other way round. If such were the case, we would no longer be in a democratic system.

Asselborn Merkellel
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hvg.hu: Do you think that the Hungarian law is not conform to EU regulations? But the media-situation in Italy is not similar?

Jean Asselborn: We don’t have an EU-legislation that addresses matters such as this directly.  But we have the Charter of Fundamental Rights (Art. 11). We have our common values, we have our human rights and freedom of the press.  Freedom of expression is one of the most important parts of these rights. By the way: this issue is not only concerning journalists. It is the right of everyone to obtain information from different sources and not from media streamlined by the government. In Italy, the situation is completely different from Hungary: of course, I know that there are people who criticize the fact that the Italian Prime Minister is, on the one hand, the owner of the most powerful media groups and, on the other, has some influence on the public media. But there is no state control over the entire private media sector. Hence, you can find newspapers and TV-stations in Italy which are far away from any influence of Mr. Berlusconi.

hvg.hu: After several days of your first comments, have you been contacted by Hungarian government officials? If yes, have they mentioned some positive aspects for the future?

Jean Asselborn: No I was not contacted by the Hungarian government.

hvg.hu: What is your opinion on the official Hungarian statements – e.g. that the disputed law’s aims primarily  to cut the very negative aspects of press freedom, topics like: child pornography, child abuse, etc?

Jean Asselborn: For this, one does not need a special media law. Child abuse, child pornography and other atrocities are crimes. They are subject to general law. In a democratic society with separated powers, it is up to the courts of justice to deal with this, not to politically appointed commissions.

hvg.hu:  How do you comment the opinion of the spokesman of Prime Minister Orban, who has said: “That statement was nothing but a private opinion of a Foreign Minister”? Was it, really? Have you consulted about it with your Prime Minister, too?

Jean Asselborn: As Minister of Foreign Affairs, I speak for the Government of Luxembourg. And I can assure you: regarding the protection of human and democratic rights, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg has no different views than me. The same goes for all political groups represented in our parliament.

hvg.hu:  If in Hungary – against the protests of foreign media and governments – the Media Law would not be changed, what could be the consequences?

Jean Asselborn: For matters like this, there are procedures of the EU. The European Commission has started to examine the case. It will give its opinion, and only then will we talk about further decisions.

hvg.hu:  Are there talks about potential sanctions against Hungary?

Jean Asselborn: Not to my knowledge. As I said, there are procedures to be respected and beyond that everybody can look into the Treaty and see what is at stake. Everybody should know that early January there will be a discussion in the European Parliament, as well as the presentation of the main priorities of the Hungarian presidency by Prime Minister Orban. I am convinced that the Parliamentarian control will do its work.

hvg.hu:  Will you comment the statement of a leading member of the Hungarian government? He said: the Foreign Minister of Luxembourg is under the influence of his Hungarian cronies…

Jean Asselborn: If he is a leading member of your government, he should know that democrats don’t need to have any input from other sources in order to defend democracy.

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