Politics World

EU calls Hungary not to take opposition radio off air – letter

The European Union’s executive asked Hungary to “take urgent action” to let an opposition radio station continue broadcasting after it lost an appeal against the removal of its license, according to a letter seen by Reuters.

This week the EU expressed concern over media freedom in Hungary over the case of the Klubradio. The radio has been broadcasting for 19 years and is known for its criticism of the government policies.

The Feb. 12 letter from the European Commission’s head of communication networks unit, Roberto Viola, to Hungary’s ambassador to the EU, Tibor Stelbaczky, read:

“I request you to ensure that the current use of this spectrum can continue in the interim period until final decisions on the rejection of the renewal request and on any new assignment become legally binding.”

“I would request the Hungarian authorities to take urgent action, pending the ongoing court proceedings and final decisions on the rights of use of spectrum, to ensure that… requirements of EU law are respected while avoiding irreparable damage to the current holder of the frequency.”

Stelbaczky or officials at Hungary’s EU embassy did not reply to requests for comment on Saturday.

The letter said Klubradio was facing “imminent risk” of being forced off air “on the basis of highly questionable legal grounds.”

Hungary’s media authority refused to renew Klubradio’s license due to what it called a string of regulatory offenses by the station. Klubradio lost an appeal against the removal of its license on Tuesday, which means it would be able to operate online only from Sunday.

The Commission letter said Hungary, an ex-communist member of the EU, should respect the right to freedom of expression and to conduct business, as well as honoring the principle of proportionality.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has long been criticized within the EU and by international rights groups for putting pressure on independent media, non-governmental organizations, courts and academics.

The bloc has launched a high-level case against Hungary over what it says are violations of the rule of law, and the European Parliament’s main center-right group suspended Orban’s Fidesz party, citing democratic shortcomings.

Orban rejects the criticism and has refused to change tack.

source: nationalpost.com

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