Hungarian Opposition Radio Pushed Off Air by Court Ruling

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Klubradio, one of Hungary’s last independent radio broadcasters, will have to shift to online operations after losing a court ruling against the regulator over frequency rights.

The Budapest Municipal Court rejected the radio’s claims about irregularities that had prohibited it from an automatic extension with the National Media and Infocommunications Authority, Klubradio said on its website Tuesday.

The decision will push the broadcaster off the airwaves from Monday. That will last at least until the regulator announces a result of a full tender for the frequency, which has been suspended.

Hungarian independent broadcasters and newspapers have come under regulatory and financial pressure in recent years. At the same time, entrepreneurs close to the government have built a centralized media conglomerate that Prime Minister Viktor Orban has exempted from some state oversight.

“The verdict in fact reveals the state of the rule of law in Hungary, showing that a radio can be silenced on trumped-up excuses,” Klubradio’s owner and President Andras Arato said in the statement.

The court’s decision confirms that Klubradio had breached rules several times, Hungary’s media regulator said in an emailed statement. The request for an extension had to be rejected by law, the authority said.

Klubradio may still be able to return to full broadcasting as it is the only applicant to have met criteria in the regulator’s tender for the frequency it currently uses.

Hungary has slid in media-freedom and democracy rankings under Orban. It has fallen to 89th of 180 countries in the press index compiled by the Reporters Without Borders civil group, the second-worst among European Union member states.

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