Freedom & Liberty,  Hungary

Another blow to freedom in Hungary

Some time ago I had an interesting brief exchange with a Hungarian acquaintance after he read a post I’d written about Jobbik.  He cautioned that, although Jobbik was clearly appalling, the real worry was Fidesz.

Klubrádió, a left leaning radio station in Hungary, is a thorn in the side of the Orbán government. Recently it’s been involved in a protracted battle over its broadcasting licence, following the expiry of its frequency rights. You can read more about this here (although I’m not sure this article is compliant with Wikipedia’s neutrality guidelines.)

Eve Balogh, writing on Hungarian Spectrum, describes a series of apparently underhand attempts to force through legislation which will make it impossible for Klubrádió to continue broadcasting. (Hungary has faced heavy criticism for its new media laws, and is now only classed as ‘semi-free’ by Freedom House.)

The full detail of what happened is quite complicated, but essentially it seems that the first plan was to introduce amendments which would change the status of the frequency Klubrádió was bidding for, meaning that the radio station would have to pay a hefty fee.  These amendments were disallowed on a technicality, but a new amendment was devised which would spell still worse news for Klubrádió:

Since it seemed that these amendments would not pass muster, Szabó withdrew them. In their place Erzsébet Menczer (Fidesz), one of the original sponsors of the media law, submitted new amendments that dim Klubrádió’s prospects of ever obtaining a license on any frequency. According to the pertinent Menczer amendment, if the Media Authority didn’t change the status of a media outlet from commercial to public before it applied for a frequency, the station cannot have a contract even if it is willing to pay the fee. In this way Klubrádió couldn’t broadcast on the 92.9 MHz frequency–period. The amendment would also immediate end temporary licensing, a practice that allowed Klubrádió to remain on the air in the last year or so.

Not surprisingly, Jobbik was fully supportive of this move:

The far-right Jobbik was pleased to support the Fidesz proposal and Gábor Vona, head of the Jobbik caucus, announced that once they are in power they will close ATV, the only opposition television station, as well. Nice prospects.

Here’s a nicely sardonic comment on another blog:

No, no, Leto’s right on this one.

I’m tired of having to choose, or think, or anything like that.

I want every radio station to play the same 20 or 30 songs (Hungarian only, no foreign rubbish), and to only hear good news about how wonderfully the economy is doing this week, and how Orban is beating the EU into submission. And I’m very happy, also, to hear advertising for Kozgep’s many comercial interests, because it’s great to hear about a successful business enterprise doing well.

Hungary needs *more of the same*. Clearly. In fact, why have more than one radio station at all? Just one would be fine. We could call it the People’s Radio.

You can read more about Hungary’s diminishing freedoms here.

Hat Tip: Hungarian Spectrum