The European Parliament plenary will discuss the case of Klubrádió, left-wing daily Népszavareports. After a court ruling, the radio will be taken off the air at midnight on Sunday, drawing a great deal of uproar since it is one of the last widely-available stations not under the government’s influence.
It was the European People’s Party’s (EPP, which ruling Fidesz-KDNP is also a member of) group that proposed a discussion of the situation of the media in Poland following new measures by the Polish government. The Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group, however, requested to add the case of Klubrádió to the discussion, and the Parliament’s Conference of Presidents agreed to it. As a result, the case will be discussed in March.
Poland’s ruling (and Fidesz-ally) PiS moved to impose a tax (ranging from 2% to 15%) on the media companies’ business advertising revenue supposedly to repair public finances strained by the pandemic this way. Media groups, however, warn that the tax is an unfair effort to extract money from, while it also serves to undermine press freedom.
It was made public on Tuesday that a Budapest court has rejected an appeal by the radio station against the decision by Hungary’s media authority (NMHH) to not renew its license. This means the radio has to go off the air and can only operate online from Monday on. A number of press freedom watchdogs, along with the US and French foreign ministries raised their voice, fearing for Hungarian press freedom.
In a recent statement, NMHH’s president defended the decision, mentioning gestures they made towards the channel, pointing out various violations of the law by the broadcaster, and saying that due to the Media Act, their hands had been tied anyway. Klubrádió, however, insists that only minor irregularities were found for which they paid fines for (amounting to only tens of thousands of forint) at the time.
Two government officials also lately denied any kind of government involvement and labeled the outcry as ‘hysteria.’ Critics, on the other hand, have noted that all members of the media regulator are close to the ruling parties, which is why many believe their refusal to extend Klubrádió’s license was politically motivated.
Meanwhile, the European Commission (EC) also announced an assessment of the situation. EC spokesman Christian Wigand commented that “…the case of Klubrádió only aggravates our concerns” over media pluralism in Hungary.