By Ray Fleming

A rather important meeting is due to take place today between the prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban and the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso. Hungary has just taken over the rotating presidential reins of the European Council of Ministers and Mr Orban will be in the chair for its first summit of 2011. There will naturally be many things for Mr Orban and Mr Barroso to discuss today but the latter's first question should be this: “Is it really true that the Hungarian government is introducing a law that provides for fines up to $720'000 for offensive or “unbalanced” media reporting and requires journalists to reveal their sources?” Before he left Brussels Mr Barroso said that freedom of the press is a “sacred principle” and “fundamental value” for the European Union; it is a long established principle that countries which do not uphold press freedom cannot be accepted as EU members.

Since news broke of the new Hungarian law the government has said that its purpose has been misrepresented and that perhaps the translations of it have been at fault. Mr Orban can easily clarify the matter and put anxieties at rest with a straightforward statement; if he does not doubts will arise about the legitimacy of Hungary's presidency. France and Germany have protested strongly about the law but nothing has been heard on the matter from the British government. Why not?

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