The European Commission has sent a letter to the Hungarian government asking them to allow Klubradio to continue broadcasting.
The station was taken off the air on Sunday after a court decision was upheld, not to extend its broadcasting license. In September 2020, the National Media and Inforcommunications Authority refused a request to extend Klubradio’s seven-year license due to claims of repeated infringements relating to compulsory registration laws. They said the station had submitted documents late on two occasions.
Typically, such violations would incur a fine but in this case, the station has been taken off the air. Last week an appeal was heard at a court in Budapest but the request to issue a temporary broadcasting license was thrown out. The station plans to take the matter to the country’s Supreme Court and will continue to broadcast online for the time being.
The regulators have denied claims of political bias and a Hungarian government spokesperson told REFL that the issue was the fault of management.
EC spokesperson Christian Wigand confirmed that the Commission had sent a letter to Hungary’s permanent representation in Brussels on Friday, expressing concerns about the decision. He said that the loss of the station’s license had happened on “highly questionable legal grounds” and that Hungary should respect EU values such as the rights to freedom of expression, information, and the freedom to conduct a business.
The Commission has asked Hungary to take immediate action to ensure that the radio station can continue using its frequency until final decisions have become legally binding. Wigan said Hungary was yet to respond to the letter.
Klubradio was one of the remaining liberal-leaning and opposition voices left in the country. It was also one of the few that gave a platform to opposition politicians and those critical of the Orban government.
Hungary’s media climate has not fared well in recent years as the Orban government has taken a number of steps to clamp down on independent and critical voices. The market share of media voices is under the control of the pro-government media foundation, the Central European Press and Media Foundation. It ranks number 89 in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index.