Comparative Perspectives on the Fundamental Freedom of Expression

In 2012 the Hungarian Academy of Sciences established the Media Studies Research Group for the management of various social scientific research activities related to the media. Activities related to media law are of paramount importance among these, not least because of the rapid and major changes taking place in the field of media regulations, the many open questions that arise both on the national and the European level and the disputes related to the media regulations. The Academy hopes that this initiative will enable the research team to conduct studies that are significant on a European scale, as well as to participate in international exchanges related to the subject.

The Academy invited distinguished scholars from many countries working in the field of media and free speech law to take part in the research programme and to send manuscripts for a planned publication of a collection of essays. The participation of diverse authors from various countries and backgrounds has greatly contributed to the value of the research.

This book is composed of six larger structural units dealing with (1) the fundamental theoretical questions of freedom of the press, (2) the regulation of new media, (3) the legal status of journalists, (4) the means available to the European Union to safeguard and regulate freedom of the press, as well as the eternal, fundamental questions of freedom of speech, (5) the law on defamation and the protection of privacy, and lastly, (6) the limitation of hate speech, including the problems related to blasphemy and “denial laws”.

Since the authors come from numerous different countries, their viewpoints are also quite diverse and multifaceted. The texts address the most topical and important issues of media regulation and freedom of speech. Freedom of the press and media regulation in democratic countries, by their nature, cannot be static, but are constantly changing. Still, a book such as this one must be closed and delivered to the readers at some point. Nevertheless, conclusions drawn in these studies will defy time and remain valid for a long time. These writings not only keep for posterity a specific part of the current scholarly standpoints and record a snapshot of the cross-section of current press freedom-related issues, but also, they can even actively form scholarly and public thinking about these questions. They will prove to be a great source for international readers, such as researchers, university students and media policy decision-makers, who are interested in the legal aspects of freedom of the press.

Media Freedom and Regulation in the New Media World

In 2013 the Media Studies Research Group established by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences launched a research programme entitled The fundamentals of European thought on media law, with special respect to certain issues related to the freedom of speech. The programme’s aim is to define the fundamentals of European thought on media law, to identify the possible models for the resolution of the various questions that arise, to understand the common minimum of European regulations that is present in all countries and to establish whether best practices exist in these areas and, if so, what they are. The Academy invited distinguished scholars from many countries working in the field of media and free speech law to take part in the research programme and send manuscripts for a collection of essays published in this book as a first step to promote the research at an international level.

The essays of the book encompass a significant part of the current issues of the freedom of speech and media law. Apart from the fundamentals of media regulation the main subjects discussed are the regulation of the new media, the desirable limitations of the operation of the press, the regulation of public service media, the scope of the jurisdiction of the European Union in issues of media freedom, the law of libel, protection of privacy, hate speech and terrorism, commercial communications and political advertising.

The objective of the editor was to ensure that this collection of papers contributes to the debates conducted in Europe, America, and other continents on the most important issues related to media law and the freedom of speech. The essays’ significant theoretical foundations and in-depth analyses will ensure that they remain important sources for a long time.

Hungarian Media Law

The media regulation of a particular country cannot be evaluated exclusively on the basis of the text of the respective laws. Despite that, the new Hungarian media regulation was subject to numerous criticisms in Hungary and abroad; some of these accusations were quite unrealistic.

To make a well-founded judgement, it is necessary to have a precise knowledge of the history of the regulation, the constitutional norms of the state and the legal meaning of the notions included in a given law, as well as the legal practice applied by the courts and authorities. The authors of this study have made an attempt to adopt such a complex approach when examining the specific provisions.

Freedom of Speech

This volume is a collection of loosely connected essays focusing on major theoretical issues related to freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. The studies in the book present the problems under consideration in the context of specific cases, court decisions, and statutes and attempt to express notions that are less conventional in European legal thinking, in order to achieve both novelty and durability. The collected pieces of work attempt to find some sort of link between the two paradigms of freedom of speech prevalent on the two sides of the Atlantic that are, more often than not, extremely hard to reconcile with each other; this endeavor may be directed either at some sort of synthesis between American and European legal literature or the identification of the – usually different – answers offered to the same problems under the two paradigms.

As the author happens to live in a country where, for historical reasons, the modern concept of freedom of speech has been put into practice for scarcely more than two decades, his Central Eastern European approach, which necessarily permeates the work, may even be able to cast new light on the sometimes petrified doctrines of freedom of speech for readers from ‘beyond the Iron Curtain’.

In Medias Res