Modified Media Law acknowledges Reporter’s Privilege

Hungarian Parliament approved an amendment of the so called ‘media constitution’ which provides higher protection for journalist’s sources. Acknowledging that atlatszo.hu’s claims were right, on the 19th December 2011 the Constitutional Court of Hungary decided that the protection of journalists’ sources is not sufficiently guaranteed by the new, widely criticised 2010 media law. It happened with reference to this law that the organised crime unit of the Hungarian Police summoned Tamás Bodoky, editor-in-chief of atlatszo.hu as witness, after he refused to identify a confidential source.

Bodoky did not identify his source as a witness either, he claimed reporter’s privilege – police seized a hard disk as evidence at the journalist’s apartment. Atlatszo.hu filed several legal complaints against the police obligation to identify a journalist’s source and seizing confidential data, but the Public Prosecution Office – responsible for overseeing criminal investigations and ensuring that the police comply with the law – stated that police claim to reveal our sources was justifiable.

Five months later the government modified the media law in a surprising way: the new amendment is almost the same as the proposal we wrote in the winter. According to the new law, sources must be indentified only if they could provide irreplaceable evidence in a crime investigation. In the future it will be up to judges to measure the importance of the information depending on the importance of source protection.