Sunday February 14 at midnight, it will be over : Hungarians will no longer be able to hear Klub Radio on the FM band. The first independent radio station in the country, founded in 1990, Klub is a participatory, impertinent and above all … very critical antenna vis-à-vis the government of Victor Orbán.
A very sad day for media pluralism in as Klubrádió, the last major independent news & politics radio loses hope to keep its frequency past 14 Feb.
Yet another of Orbán’s moves to silence dissenting voices and shrink public debate further. More infohttps://t.co/OQbvCt9zn1
– Anna Júlia Donáth (@donath_anna) February 9, 2021
“Next week, you will only be able to follow us on the internet”, explains the presenter. The antenna has lost its operating license : justice proved him wrong in the face of the media regulatory authority, the powerful media council (NMHH) created in 2011 by Viktor Orbán and which oversees all the country’s news companies. “In a dictatorship, there is no room for free voices” reacts another presenter, Janos Desi.
Klub Radio is twice accused of not having sent administrative documents on the composition of its programs on time. An excuse. The NMHH may defend itself from making a political decision, the station director Andras Arato denounces “a political decision, shameful and cowardly”.
In Hungary, the independent radio station Klubradio deprived of antenna https://t.co/TH9ek6iEXC
– Sergei Ardzinba (@Sergei_Ardzinba) February 9, 2021
It has actually been ten years since Klub Radio has been engaged in a standoff with the government, which has cut all its frequencies outside the capital and imposed an incalculable number of fines. One year, the sanction fell after the director forgot to sign pages, on which there was nothing written.
In Hungary, more than 80% of the media are now in the hands of the government. Viktor Orbán first brought the public audiovisual sector into line, which has turned into a propaganda machine. The president then bought the private ones by his oligarch friends. Hundreds of radio stations, newspapers, online sites and TV channels have disappeared, the others have changed ownership and political profile.
In 2020, 476 different media were thus brought together in a pro-government group to which Orbán granted special private enterprise status. “of national strategic importance”, which exempts him from the control of the competition authority. The European Commission has also cited this merger as one of the reasons for its reservations about the plurality of the Hungarian media market, considered to be “high risk”.
Today, Hungarians only have access to biased information, without debate, with a systematic bludgeoning of the opposition. This is what obviously contributed to the re-election of Orbán in 2018. The closure of KlubRadio comes moreover a year before the next legislative elections.
The worry reactions are multiple: “Another voice silenced in Hungary. Another sad day for media freedom”, says Dunja Mijatovic, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.
France, like the United States, denounces by the voice of its diplomacy a “very disturbing signal” in terms of “pluralism and independence of the media”, reason for which Brussels already launched in 2018 an exceptional procedure against Hungary, for “violation” European values. Without succeeding in bending the nationalist leader.
When Viktor Orbán returned to power in 2010, Hungary was 23rd (out of 180) in the world press freedom ranking published by Reporters Without Borders. She is now 89th.