The situation for Hungary’s embattled independent media is about to become even more challenging.

On 12 December, the Hungarian parliament voted to pass the Protection of Sovereignty Act. It was debated for less than two weeks and passed without any serious public consultation.7 Its stated motivation is the protection of Hungarian sovereignty from malign external threats, and the criminalisation of foreign funding to political parties during election campaigns.

A new body will now be established to map and report on perceived threats to national sovereignty and identify bodies or individuals suspected of serving foreign interests or receiving foreign funds. In a country where government politicians have previously smeared some media as serving foreign interests, media have criticized the vague language of the law, and decried the bill as being part of the government’s decade-long attempt to dial up the pressure on critical voices.

Ahead of elections in 2024, and amidst ongoing negotiations with the European Commission over the release of frozen EU funds, the new law looks set to be another divisive issue pitting Budapest against Brussels – and create further uncertainty for media and NGOs.

In this episode of the MFRR In Focus, we spoke to renowned Hungarian journalist Szabolcs Panyi about the details of the law, what its real motivations are, and what impact it will have on the already destabilised independent media community.

Guests: Szabolcs Panyi, investigative editor at VSQUARE and investigative journalist at Direkt36

Producer and Host: Jamie Wiseman, Europe Advocacy Officer at International Press Institute (IPI)

Editor: Javier Luque, head of digital communications at IPI

Other episodes in this series:

Under illegal surveillance – the Greek ‘Predatorgate’

Related links:

Draft Sovereignty Protection Act poses fresh threat to independent media

IPI joins condemnation of passing of Sovereignty Protection Act

This podcast series is part of the MFRR in Focus project sponsored by Media Freedom Rapid Response, which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries. The MFRR is organised by a consortium led by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) including ARTICLE 19 Europe, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Free Press Unlimited (FPU), International Press Institute (IPI) and CCI/Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT).

For more in-depth podcast episodes about the state of press freedom in Europe, visit the MFRR website or search MFRR In Focus on your podcasts apps. The MFRR is co-funded by the European Commission.