A COURT HAS APPROVED the Hungarian Media Council’s decision not to renew the broadcasting licence of Klubrádió, the country’s leading independent radio station.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned this as a major blow to media pluralism, and urges the European Commission to stop delaying its investigation into the Media Council’s independence and state aid for pro-government media.

As a result of the 9 February 2021 ruling by the Metropolitan Court in Budapest rejecting the appeal of Klubrádió against the Media Council’s decision, the Budapest-based radio station disappeared from the air waves when its licence expired on the evening of 14 February.

The Media Council, which is heavily influenced by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government, gave a trivial reason for its decision last September not to renew Klubrádió’s licence – the radio station’s failure to keep the Council informed about its adherence to airtime quotas for Hungarian and international music.

Known for its outspoken and humorous criticism of the government, Klubrádió had previously been ordered to restrict the area covered by its broadcasts to the capital. From now on it will be limited to broadcasting on the Internet.

“With the Hungarian judicial system’s support, the Media Council has used an administrative pretext to deal a major blow to media pluralism”, said Pavol Szalai, the head of RSF’s European Union and Balkans desk. “The European Commission must delay no more in investigating the Council’s independence under the revised European directive on broadcast media, and in investigating the other curbs on press freedom, such as state aid to pro-government media.”

Klubrádió plans to take its appeal against the Media Council’s decision to Hungary’s supreme court. But its broadcast frequency is still put out to bid and its disappearance from the airwaves will have irreversible consequences, including the loss of listeners and advertisers.

The radio station thus joins the long list of victims of the censorship policies pursued by the government, which used political and economic pressure to dismantle the biggest independent news website, Index, last July.

Hungary is ranked 89th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

* Source: Reporters Without Borders