The government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has shut down one of the country’s main independent radio stations, Klubradio. The Media Council, the regulatory body created by Obán in 2011, refused to renew his license, which expires on Sunday (14).
The broadcaster’s license was terminated last year, on the grounds that the company had twice delayed submitting reports on the content of the grid, which would constitute a “repeated violation” of the registration law. communication vehicles.
The radio had appealed to the Budapest Metropolitan Court, where it operates, asking for a temporary concession until the frequency of the frequency on which it operates (and for which it was asking) is revived. The request was rejected on Tuesday (9).
The vehicle’s management said it would appeal to the Supreme Court, but, as of Sunday, it will no longer occupy its band on the dial. The company is committed to maintaining its activity on the Internet.
According to the radio, the same delay in submitting the documents was committed by other broadcasters whose concessions have been renewed and the closure is politically motivated. In a report on press freedom in Hungary, Corvinius University professor Agnès Urban said that the Media Council is fully controlled by Fidesz, Viktor Orban’s party, which appoints its members.
According to the professor, also an analyst at the Hungarian Studies Center Mertek, the country’s media have been in crisis since Orbán enacted a new media law in 2010. In five years, Lajos Simicska – one of the men of richest businessman in the country and close to the prime minister – he has built a media conglomerate, with radios, print media and graphic advertising.
In 2016, Orbán’s childhood friend, Lorinc Meszaros, became the owner of Mediaworks, the country’s largest communications company. Andrew Vajna, an American producer of Hungarian origin also close to Orbán, has taken control of TV2, the country’s second largest commercial channel.
The Hungarian government’s attacks on independent media are among the main issues highlighted by a European Union report on rule of law violations released late last year.
Lawsuits, death threats, physical assault, online harassment (especially of women journalists), smear campaigns and intimidation are some of the cases cited. Journalists also reported a “systemic obstruction of work,” in which the government refuses to answer questions or limits journalists’ access to public bodies.
Defamation campaigns against journalists, attempts to intimidate journalistic sources, lack of transparency on owners of information vehicles and government interference in the media were also highlighted.
Among the most resounding media attack cases was the resignation last year of the editor of the Index, then the leading independent news site. The case led to a march of thousands in Budapest for press freedom.
The International Press Institute said at the time that the Hungarian government’s strategy to crack down on independent journalism was asphyxiation: government pressure on advertisers, buying by businessmen close to Orbán and regulatory barriers. , rather than arrests or criminal prosecution.
In the meantime, Hungary has fallen in the world press freedom ranking organized by the NGO Reporters Without Borders. From 23rd place in 2010, when Orbán came to power, it dropped to 89th place out of 180 countries last year.
Hungary was also cited as a concern last year in the MPM2020 (Media Pluralism Monitor) report, which identifies risks based on 20 indicators in four areas: basic safety of journalistic activity, plurality / market concentration, political independence and social inclusion (access to media for minorities and local and regional communities).
At the end of 2018, Brussels opened an investigation (called exceptional procedure) into the risk of a “serious violation” of EU values, highlighting in particular the impoverishment of media pluralism in Hungary. If condemned, the country will lose the transfer of funds from the European bloc.
On the contrary, in September last year, European Free Radio relaunched its Hungarian service, calling the measure “a response to the sharp decline in media freedom in the country”.