From: Alice Taylor
EC Launches Infringement Procedure Against Hungary Over Media Freedom Violations

The European Commission has launched infringement proceedings against Hungary for a breach of EU law in forcing independent Klubradio off the air.

Vera Jourova, Vice President for Values and Transparency at the European Commission, tweeted that they had clearly warned Hungarian authorities about their actions and had asked them to find a solution so that the station could continue broadcasting. As they did not, the EC will start telecoms rules infringement procedures.

She added: “We use all the means at our disposal to defend media freedom. But too often there is no tool available. This is why we need to work on a Media Freedom Act in order to recognize the key role of independent media for democracy and addressing attacks against them.”

The station was taken off the air in February after a court decision was upheld not to extend its broadcasting license. In September 2020, the National Media and Infocommunications 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. 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.

The EC then sent a letter to the Hungarian government, which was allegedly ignored.

Hungary continues to fall in terms of media freedom. In recent years, most independent outlets have either been bought by government allies or have gone out of business.

Meanwhile, the EC has been criticized for backpedaling on its commitment to Albanian media freedom. Having previously made bringing the controversial “anti-defamation package” in line with Venice Commission recommendations as one of the 15 conditions to sit at the table of the first intergovernmental conference, they stunned journalists this month when they denied it.

They stated that it was never a condition and that the VC did not recommend changing the law.

Journalists have reported the change of approach to international media freedom organizations.