Hungary: Acquittal of journalist in secrecy case

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From: HREA, Human Rights Education Associates and its Newsletter
Date: 19/12/2007

OSCE Press release

BUDAPEST, 19 December 2007 – Miklos Haraszti, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, greeted today’s acquittal of journalist Antonia Radi, and called on the Hungarian authorities to reform legislation on disclosing state secrets.

“It is regretful that Hungary still belongs to those countries that punish civilians, among them journalists, for the publication of classified information,” said Haraszti. “This is an obsolete practice. In a democracy, only the official guardians of state secrets should be held responsible for any leaks.”

Antonia Radi, a leading investigative reporter, has been on trial since 2003 on breach of secrecy charges, based on her reporting in the weekly HVG about a criminal case.

Haraszti noted her acquittal after four years with approval, but expressed concern that it was due to a technicality and not to the needed changes in legislation.

“The current law allows for the acquittal of journalists who report on state secrets only if the classification was not carried out properly, or the officials compromised the classification procedure in other ways. No lawsuit was even initiated against the official who leaked the information. This practice threatens even the most dedicated journalists, and it weakens investigative journalism,” said Haraszti.

The OSCE media freedom representative urged Hungarian authorities to narrow the scope of the existing criminal law to make leaks the responsibility of officials, and to introduce a court practice that would always take into account the public’s right to information.

Link: OSCE media freedom watchdog welcomes acquittal of Hungarian journalist in secrecy case, urges legislative reforms.

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