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AEJ statement condemns Hungarian Media Council’s “political” ruling to take Klubradio off air

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AEJ statement: Hungarian Media Council’s “political” ruling on Klubradio must be reversed

The Association of European Journalists and the Board of AEJ Hungary have jointly issued the following statement and demand for remedial actions following this week’s partisan and malign decision rejecting Klubradio’s appeal to retain its broadcasting licence:

“A shameful, unlawful and cowardly decision” was the reaction of the leaders of Klubradio after the Media Council this week rejected their appeal to renew the broadcast licence of the radio station, which represents one of the last bastions of independent and critical journalism and comment in Hungary. Despite the station’s large following in Hungary and strong statements of support for its appeal from the European Union and international media organisations, the latest decision by the Media Council means that Klubradio, already off air for the last two weeks, will only be allowed to transmit its programmes on the Internet. The AEJ condemns the vindictive and politically-motivated decision of the Council, which is entirely dominated by figures appointed by the ruling Fidesz party.

Hopes for a favourable outcome of Klubradio’s appeal had been raised by the recent announcement of a renewed tender for the available broadcast frequency. But the Media Council once again rejected Klubradio’s tender, citing what it said were formal deficiencies and mistakes in its application. The president of Klubradio said the requirements were designed to make it impossible to satisfy the regulator’s demands.

The AEJ condemns the partisan process of licence allocation in Hungary and the decision arrived at by the Media Council as “outrageous and a blatant violation of European standards upholding media freedom and plurality”.  That decision was presaged by the ruling against the radio station’s bid to extend its licence that was made on February 9th by the  Metropolitan Court in Budapest. The judgements of that Court in this case are also tainted by the systematic undermining by the Hungarian government of the independence of the country’s judiciary, which has been widely condemned by human rights organisations across Europe.

Sweeping reforms to ensure the independence and transparency of Hungary’s media regulator and its courts are urgently needed. The media policies of the Fidesz-led government since their election victory in 2010 has always been a part of a coherent and fiercely anti-pluralistic vision of Hungarian society which is diametrically opposed to European standards. During the past more than ten years a large number of independent newspapers and news portals have fallen victim to these anti-pluralistic and strictly pro-government pressures, including ownership takeovers and media closures.

A future administrative court judgement is awaited which must decide on the legality or otherwise of the process leading to the stifling of Klubradio. The Board of the AEJ Hungarian Section warns that the prospects of a reprieve from that decision are minimal in the countrys’ politicised and arbitrary media and regulatory landscape. The AEJ therefore calls on the European Parliament and other EU institutions, as well as the Council of Europe and the OSCE, to use all available means to promote the necessary reforms in Hungary, including democratic constraints on the arbitrary actions of the government, so that media freedom and independence can be restored. We likewise call on all journalistic associations and public bodies concerned with press freedom to demonstrate solidarity and support for Klubradio and its demand to have its broadcasting status restored.

Statement first issued by the Board of AEJ Hungary, Budapest, 13 March, 2021

Jozsef Martin President

Jozsef Horvath Secretary

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