Authorities in Hungary deny opposition radio’s frequency bid

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary’s media regulator on Thursday rejected an application from one of the country’s last independent radio stations to regain its broadcasting frequency, despite calls from the European Union to allow the station to remain on the air.

Klubradio, a liberal station that regularly features opposition politicians and opinions critical of Hungary’s right-wing government, applied on an open tender to regain a frequency it lost in February, but Hungary’s Media Council denied its request — despite it being the only eligible applicant. The station has been broadcasting online only since last month after a court upheld a previous decision by the Media Council not to extend its broadcasting license.

The station has 15 days to appeal the decision by the Media Council, which argued that Klubradio’s frequency application contained errors and did not meet basic requirements for radio broadcasting.

Critics of Hungary’s government charge that the ruling Fidesz party, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, has undertaken a systematic crackdown on critical media in the country, and that the Media Council — all five members of which were nominated by Fidesz — exercises political bias in its decision making. The government denies that it interferes in media issues.

In February, the European Commission, the EU’s executive, sent a letter to Hungary’s permanent representation in Brussels expressing concerns over Klubradio, and urged Hungary to take urgent action to allow the station to continue broadcasting. The loss of the station’s frequency had occurred “on the basis of highly questionable legal grounds,” a Commission spokesman said.

The decision to deny the station’s frequency application came one day after a plenary debate in the European Parliament on the erosion of media freedom in Hungary and Poland.

In a statement on its website, Klubradio called the Media Council’s decision “unlawful,” and vowed to continue broadcasting online.

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