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Hungary Ready To Alter Controversial Media Law

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, after his meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on January 7, welcomed the pledge.
Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orban, says he wants to defuse political tensions generated by the country's controversial new media law.

Orban said Hungary would amend its media law if Europe demands it, adding: "But no pressure, no campaigns."

He was speaking at a joint press conference in Budapest with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who welcomed Orban's pledge.

"I have received assurances from the prime minister that the [media] law is drawn up and will be implemented in full respect of European Union values on media freedom and relevant EU legislation," Barroso said. "The prime minister equally made clear that adjustments will be made should the [European] Commission, after a legal assessment, find that this is not the case for all the aspects of the law."

Critics say the law, which came into effect on January 1, is a thinly veiled attempt to muzzle the media and a throwback to Soviet-style state journalism.

A group of Central European statesmen and former anticommunist dissidents has urged the European Union to implement mandatory democratic standards in response to what they called a "full-fledged illiberal democracy in Hungary."

Referring to the country's new media law, the letter said that "the denial of basic rights in one country humiliates all Europeans."

The appeal was made in an open letter issued by 70 politicians and intellectuals, including former Hungarian President Arpad Goncz and former Czech President Vaclav Havel.

compiled from agency reports