a)  Hungary / b)  Constitutional Court / c) / d)  20-12-2011 / e)  165/2011 / f) / g)  Magyar Közlöny (Official Gazette), 2011/155 / h)  CODICES (Hungarian).
Keywords of the systematic thesaurus:
Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Freedom of the written press.
Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Rights in respect of the audiovisual media and other means of mass communication.
Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Right to information.
Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Right to private life - Protection of personal data.
Keywords of the alphabetical index:
Media, print, on-line, regulation / Journalist, information, source / Media commissioner.
It is against the principle of free press to limit the protection of journalists’sources to stories serving the public interest. Editors must, moreover, not be obliged to supply data in the absence of pending proceedings. The institution of the ‘Media Commissioner’constitutes an unnecessary restriction on the freedom of press.
I. During the second half of 2010, Parliament adopted a series of amendments to existing media-related provisions, including a new Article 61 of the Constitution, and Act LXXXII of 2010 on the amend-ment of certain acts on media and telecommunications. It also passed important new legislation in the form of Act CIV of 2010 on the freedom of the press and the fundamental rules regarding media content (Press and Media Act) and Act CLXXXV of 2010 on media services and mass media (Mass Media Act). Several applicants asked the Constitutional Court for a constitutional review of almost all the provisions. In this particular case, the Constitutional Court only examined part of this media "package", namely the provisions concerning the print and online media. It did not deal with other issues arising from the package, such as registration requirements, public service broadcasting, the media regulatory bodies (Media Authority, Media Council) and the sanctions regime.
II. The Constitutional Court ruled the Press and Media Act to be unconstitutional in four significant areas.
Firstly, print media should to an extent be removed from the scope of the Press and Media Act. The Media Authority should not, in future, be entitled to scrutinize print and online content against aspects of human rights, human dignity and privacy. The Media Authority’s right of scrutiny is not unconstitutional with regard to audiovisual media, so the Court annulled that part of the Press and Media Act which provides for the application of the Act to the printed and online press with effect from 30 May 2012.
The Court then resolved to abolish, with immediate effect, the limitation on the protection of confidential sources of information. Article 6.2 of the Act provides that the media content provider and any person employed by or engaged, in any other legal relationship intended for the performance of work, with the media content provider is entitled to keep the identity of their sources of information confidential even in judicial or other official proceedings, provided the information thereby supplied was disclosed in the public interest. Based on the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, the Court annulled the last sentence limiting the protection of sources to stories serving the public interest. As a result, authorities (rather than journalists) will now have to define the scope of public interest.
The Court also put forward new rules under which journalists may only be forced to divulge their sources under a procedure strictly controlled by the courts; even where issues of national security or crime prevention have arisen, court approval is needed to force journalists to disclose sources.
The Court resolved with immediate effect to annul the Media Authority’s right to compel editors to divulge editorial material and other data in the absence of pending proceedings and in order to initiate future proceedings without prior court approval.
As a result of this decision, the institution of the Media Commissioner will be eliminated as of 31 May 2012. Under the Press and Media Act the Commissioner, appointed and employed by the Head of the Media Authority, handles legal complaints and consumer protection issues. If the activities of the media market violate the lawful rights or interests of a user or subscriber, the Media Commissioner may proceed against the protagonist within the media market, and request any data, information and explanation, although the Commissioner has no right to sanction. The Court found this institution superfluous and an unnecessary restriction on the freedom of press.
III. Justice István Balsai, Justice Barnabás Lenkovics and Justice Béla Pokol attached separate opinions to the judgment.