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’s decision not to renew the broadcast licenceof the radio station, one of the last bastions of independent and critical journalism in Hungary. Despite the station’s large following 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 will be taken off air for good at midnight this Sunday, though it can continue 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. But the president of Klubradio said the requirements of the tender were designed to make it impossible to satisfy what was demanded.
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 licencethat 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 organisationsacross 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 chances of a reprieve are minimal in the politicised and arbitrary climate of Hungary’s media and regulatory landscape. The AEJ 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