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US ‘deeply concerned’ about state of Hungarian media

The U.S. expressed “deep concern” about the “declining media pluralism in Hungary,” as the last radio station that is critical of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government is due to go off the air.

A Budapest court on Tuesday upheld a Hungarian media council decision not to extend Klubrádió’s broadcasting license, which expires February 14, over claims it violated media laws on multiple occasions.

“The imminent loss of the broadcasting license of one of the country’s most popular radio stations, Klubrádió, threatens the departure of yet another independent voice from Hungary’s airwaves,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement Wednesday.

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“The United States believes that a diversity of independent voices and opinions is essential to democracy, and we urge the Government of Hungary to promote an open media environment,” Price added.

Hungary’s media council decided not to renew Klubrádió’s license in September 2020, claiming the station failed to inform it in due course about its music programming.

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Hungarian government spokesperson Zoltán Kovács rejected the idea that Klubrádió had been forced off the air, and said in a statement that the “station’s own management is to blame for its demise by flagrantly disregarding broadcasting regulations and falling afoul of the court.” He claimed criticism of the Hungarian media council was part of an “anti-Orbán agenda.”

Klubrádió’s chief András Arató told AFP the station would file an appeal in Hungary’s Supreme Court and is considering legal action at the EU level. A French foreign ministry spokeswoman said the decision not to renew Klubrádió’s license was “a very worrying signal in terms of pluralism and media independence.”

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In a statement on Wednesday, NGO Reporters Without Borders called on the European Commission to “stop delaying its investigation into the Media Council’s independence.”

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