The erosion of media freedom in Hungary continues

This time, the country’s last independent radio station faces possible disappearance due to the non-renewal of its licence by the Hungarian Media Council.

In July, more than 70 journalists and the entire board at Index, Hungary’s top news site, resigned in response to the sacking of its editor-in-chief, Szabolcs Dull. Dull’s firing and the subsequent resignations were seen as critical blows to media freedom in Hungary.

Read more: Independent media and press freedom take another hit in Hungary as Index editor is fired

Now, media freedom has taken another blow. On 11 September, Hungary’s Media Council refused to extend the licence of Klubrádió for what it deemed as repeated violation of the country’s new media regulation. Legally, Hungary’s regulation stipulates that broadcasters must, among other conditions, dedicate over half of their annual transmission time to broadcasting Hungarian works. But according to the Media Council, Klubrádió failed to provide data on its programme quotas “several times” between 2015 and 2017, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reported.

In a petition launched in response to the non-renewal of its licence, Klubrádió deemed the identified violations as “minimal irregularities” and believe that they do not constitute enough grounds for its silencing. Instead, Klubrádió believes it is being attacked for its history of independence.

This is not the first time Klubrádió has been targeted by the Media Council. In 2013, the station won a legal battle against the Council to maintain its frequency and continue its operations uninterrupted.  Klubrádió – known for its critical reporting of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his administration – is considered to be the country’s last independent radio station. Klubrádió has recognised this role and said that there is significant public interest in its continued operation.

The attacks on Klubrádió and Index form part of wider media capture, control and censorship in Hungary, at a level that is unprecedented for an EU member state. As of 2019, 78% of Hungarian media outlets were considered to be pro-government while the presence of an independent public media organisation has long since passed. In recent years, Hungary has declined every year in its World Press Freedom ranking: in 2013 it ranked at 56 out of 180 countries but today ranks at 89.

Klubrádió have now launched a fundraising campaign in an attempt to ensure their survival.

The Public Media Alliance (PMA) condemns the role of Hungarian authorities in the decline of media freedom and the undue pressure placed upon the country’s few remaining independent news outlets, which only serves to inspire self-censorship, stifle alternative voices and limit democratic debate.

PMA backs calls on the EU to take action against the escalating decline of media freedom in Hungary.

Header Image source: Klubrádió