One of Hungary’s last independent radio stations, Klubrádió, will be removed from the airwaves after a Budapest court upheld a decision not to renew its license — a ruling widely seen as a blow against media freedom in the country.
Klubrádió, which often featured voices from Hungary’s opposition, had appealed to the court after its license was revoked last year by the country’s Media Council for allegedly violating rules on advertising among other things.
Members of the Media Council are elected by the Hungarian National Assembly, in which Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party has a majority.
In response to Judge Regina Antal’s ruling on Tuesday, the Media Council said in an online statement, “The verdict stated that since Klubrádió had not appealed against its repeated violations, which caused the legal exclusion, they had become final, so that there was no choice but to refuse to renew them.”
Mihaly Hardy, News Director of Klubrádió said, “There is a huge propaganda balloon built up by the government and Klubrádió was a little hole, a little piece of truth where the air could escape, so they had to close this little hole in the balloon and so they can construct their own propaganda world which does not reflect the realities of Hungary.”
Klubrádió’s license will expire on February 14. It will still be able to broadcast via the internet. The station can request an appeal against the ruling in a counter appeal, Judge Regina Antal said.
Dunja Mitajovic, the Human Rights Commissioner for the Council of Europe, tweeted that the ruling meant “another silenced voice in Hungary” and “another sad day for #MediaFreedom.”
The International Press Institute has also condemned the ruling. Director Scott Griffen said the verdict “will force Hungary’s last major independent radio broadcaster off the air. It is devastating to what remains of media pluralism in Hungary and will have far reaching implications inside and outside the country’s borders.
“Make no mistake, this is the outcome of a deliberate, decade-long effort by political forces in Hungary to eradicate Klubrádió from the airwaves. The court has merely delivered the final blow,” he said.
“Over the last few years, the Fidesz-controlled Media Council and the government have one by one blocked off every remaining avenue for Klubrádió to remain on air when its renewal was rejected for politically motivated decisions. The result was that, when the time finally came for Klubrádió’s license to be renewed, its fate was all but sealed.”