2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An employee of the opposition radio station Klubradio works at its headquarters in Budapest 2/2
By Gabriela Baczynska BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union executive called on Hungary to “take urgent measures” to allow an opposition radio station to continue broadcasting after losing an appeal against the removal of its license, according to a letter. seen by Reuters. The EU this week raised concerns about press freedom in Hungary over the Klubradio case, which has been broadcasting for 19 years and whose political and talk show guests are often critical of government policies. The February 12 letter from the head of the European Commission’s communication networks unit, Roberto Viola, to the Hungarian ambassador to the EU, Tibor Stelbaczky, said: “I ask you to ensure that the current use of this spectrum may continue in the interim period until final decisions on rejection of the renewal application and on any new assignment become legally binding. “I would call on the Hungarian authorities to take urgent action, pending ongoing legal proceedings and final decisions on spectrum use rights, to ensure that … the requirements of EU law are respected and avoid irreparable damage to the current holder frequently. ” A spokeswoman for the Hungarian embassy to the EU confirmed receipt of the letter and said it would be answered by the Hungarian authorities. The letter said that Klubradio faced an “imminent risk” of being thrown off the air “on highly questionable legal grounds.” Hungary’s media authority refused to renew Klubradio’s license due to what it called a series of regulatory violations by the station. Klubradio lost an appeal against the removal of his license on Tuesday, meaning he could only operate online starting Sunday. The Commission’s letter said that Hungary, a former communist EU member, should respect the right to freedom of expression and do business, as well as respect 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 for what it says are violations of the rule of law, and the main center-right group in the European Parliament suspended Orban’s Fidesz party, citing democratic deficiencies. Orban rejects the criticism and has refused to change course.