France says Hungary law problem for press freedom

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France on Tuesday called for Hungary to change a controversial new media law, adding its voice to EU criticisms that the measure is "incompatible" with press freedom.

The law "profoundly alters the freedom of the press and France like other EU countries undoubtedly wishes that the text be modified," said Francois Baroin, spokesman for President Nicolas Sarkozy's government.

The law "is incompatible with the application of a certain idea of the freedom of the press, endorsed by all the European treaties," he added, speaking on France Inter radio.

The Hungarian reform set up a media regulator that can force journalists to reveal sources on issues related to national security, as well as imposing fines on news organisations and inspecting media equipment and documents.

Critics say it raises questions about Hungary's suitability to hold the rotating EU presidency which it took up this month.

The European Union said on Monday it had "doubts" on whether the law complies with EU rules on media freedom and has asked Budapest for further explanation.

In September the French newspaper Le Monde launched a lawsuit in which it accused Sarkozy's office of ordering an illegal probe by security services into its reporting of a major political scandal.

Sarkozy's office denied claims that it had ordered intelligence officers to trace the source of information leaked to the paper in the case.

© 2011 AFP

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