January 18, 2011 / 4:28 PM / 9 years ago

EU to detail objections to Hungary media law in letter

Hungarians, with stickers on their mouth, take part in a demonstration against the government's new media law, in front of the parliament building in Budapest January 14, 2011. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - The European Union’s executive branch piled more pressure on Hungary to amend its new media law on Tuesday with a promise to detail its objections in a letter to the Hungarian government.

Hungary, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, drew sharp rebukes from France, Britain and Germany after enacting the law, which brings the production of public news under the supervision of a state authority.

The authority is dominated by members of the ruling centre-right Fidesz party, and it can levy big fines against private media organisations if their coverage of current events is found to be lacking in “balance.”

“We intend to send a letter to the Hungarian government this week to express our objections again,” Jose Manuel Barroso, head of the European Commission, said during a question and answer session at the European parliament in Strasbourg.

“We must treat Hungary like any other member state, prudently and objectively,” he added.

Under pressure from European diplomats, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said he would be willing to amend the legislation if the EU executive obliged him to do so. But his party has also rejected criticism from abroad, saying the new law conforms to European norms.

The United States last week joined in the growing chorus of criticism when Philip Gordon, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, called on Hungary to take the international debate over its law seriously.

The law has also ruffled feathers at home, with a protest demanding its withdrawal attracting thousands of demonstrators in Budapest last Friday.

Reporting by Gilbert Reilhac; Writing by Nick Vinocur; Editing by Louise Ireland

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