Hungary: Press Freedom Organizations Welcome the Referral to the EU Court in the Klubrádió License Revocation Case

Several non-governmental organizations campaigning for press freedom and freedom of expression, including Reporters Without Borders (RSF), welcomed the European Commission’s decision to refer the decision of the Hungarian Media Council to revoke the license of the independent broadcaster Klubrádió to the European Court of Justice, writes

According to the RFS, Klubrádió was forced to stop broadcasting in February 2021 after the media regulator, made up of representatives appointed exclusively by the ruling Fidesz party, rejected a license extension due to alleged non-compliance with administrative requirements. The regulator later blocked the station’s attempts to re-secure the frequency it had used for 20 years, “silencing one of the last major critical radio broadcasters in the country”. Currently, Klubrádió continues to broadcast online, but less frequently, with more limited reach and influence.

On July 15th, the European Commission announced the continuation of legal proceedings on the infringement of common law, stating that the Media Council’s decision to reject Klubrádió’s request to use the 92.9 MHz frequency in Budapest was made for “questionable reasons” and that the authority applied the rules in a “disproportionate and discriminatory manner”. The commission added that the restriction on the radio station “violated freedom of expression as enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights”.

Reporters Without Borders believes that the European Commission’s decision is a late but important one: “This decision of the EU’s executive body to refer Hungary to court for the alleged violation of EU telecommunications rules regarding Klubrádió’s broadcast license is a late signal, but important, and shows that the Commission is increasingly willing to use the tools at its disposal to defend independent media, freedom of expression and media pluralism where they are most threatened”, it says in a statement signed by RSF and  other 11 NGOs.

The signatory organizations express their hope that the Court of Justice of the European Union will carefully analyze this case and find Hungary’s violation of EU telecommunications legislation regarding the fair and non-discriminatory allocation of radio frequencies.

Later, this would allow Klubrádió to request a retrial of the case at the Supreme Court. “However, the process is likely to take time and there are concerns that it may ultimately have a minor impact on Klubradio”s ability to resume broadcasting”, said the RSF statement, which was also supported by other organizations.

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