Freedom of the media is in peril in Hungary

The handwriting has been on the wall for at least a year: the Orbán government, which has been methodically building a country where freedom of expression will be severely limited, is planning to deprive KlubRádió, practically the only voice of the opposition on the air, of its frequency.

This year the current FM frequency license of KlubRádió expires, and therefore about a year and a half ago the owners of the radio applied for a new frequency. The idea was that in case they lose their current one there will be another at the radio's disposal. KlubRádió won the frequency, but meanwhile the new Media Council led by Annamária Szalai wouldn't give its blessing to the legally acquired new frequency. KlubRádió sued, but in good old Hungarian fashion the case still hasn't been decided.

During this time the Media Council extended KlubRádió's license of the current frequency on a temporary basis, three months at a time. Thus, the fate of the radio station has been in limbo for over a year. My suspicion is that the Media Council, most likely on the direct instruction of Viktor Orbán who loathes the station and all the people who work there, hoped that it would not have to take drastic measures to close the radio station. It would be enough to keep its destiny in suspense. Companies would be unwilling to advertise on KlubRádió because its future was uncertain. Contracts are normally signed for a year.

Initially at least the government's strategy seemed to be effective. No advertisements came KlubRádió's way. At this point the station decided to imitate the American National Public Radio and began a campaign among the faithful listeners of the station to help support it financially. Interestingly enough, although I'm sure a lot of people were skeptical about the campaign's success, up to now 250 million forints have been collected. And, by the way, here is the telephone number where one can pledge: 06 40 555 000. Or the account number for bank deposits: 10918001-00000068-67980006.

Thus the hope that KlubRádió would die a quiet death didn't materialize. Orbán's Media Council had to use more forceful methods. Yesterday it announced that KlubRádió's 88.9 FM frequency is up for bid, but the requirements are set in such a way that KlubRádió couldn't possibly win the frequency. The Media Council would like to see a station at that frequency broadcasting mostly music. KlubRádió's programming is mostly talk. There are only two such stations in Hungary: KlubRádió and Inforádió, a pro-Fidesz-government radio station. On the other hand, stations with practically continuous music are everywhere. The Media Council's intention is clear: to silence KlubRádió.

Yesterday every half a hour KlubRádió announced the news about the frequency, and during György Bolgár's call-in program worried listeners expressed their sadness and/or outrage. The most interesting call came from a famous listener of KlubRádió: Miklós Gáspár Tamás, or TGM as he is known in Hungary. TGM was born in Cluj, Romania, and studied philosophy at the university there. Sometime after 1978 he moved to Hungary where he joined the small "democratic opposition" whose members later established the liberal party (SZDSZ).

TGM is a brilliant but restless fellow who has been madly looking for the "perfect" political system. Not surprisingly he never seems to find it. From liberal he turned briefly to conservative and later some kind of utopian communist. Although I haven't been following TGM's writings very closely over the last couple of years, it seems that Viktor Orbán's image of a Hungary that in many ways would be more restrictive than the regime of Miklós Horthy awakened the liberal defender of democracy in TGM and led him to set aside his communist illusions.

I will briefly summarize what TGM had to say yesterday. He described the media situation in Hungary as worse than in the Kádár regime or between the two world wars. During the Horthy regime between 1924 and 1937 there were several dozen opposition papers. Today there are only two: Népszabadság and Népszava. In the 1980s in the Kádár regime, although opposition opinions couldn't be expressed forcefully, there were dozens of excellent publications where very serious writings on philosophical and sociological topics could be published. There was censorship in the Kádár regime, but surely it is a new phenomenon that the censor (the Media Council) is actually the employer of the reporters of MTI who provide the news free of charge to all written and electronic media. The media empire of Fidesz is growing: they are buying up Hungarian-language papers in Romania. Since these papers usually lose money it is clear that the media moguls of Fidesz are not buying these outlets for the purpose of becoming rich. On the contrary, they are willing to lose money to serve their political purposes.

TGM finished his assessment of the media in Orbán's regime which he at least twice called a dictatorship by saying that in the last year he was very careful when it came to criticism of the government. He was careful because he knew how many people had high hopes last May at the time of the elections. But now he must raise his voice. He called on people to set aside their differences and unite because, he is sad to say, "what we have is a dictatorship." Everything "we have achieved in the last twenty years is in danger." He begged everybody who cares about democracy to unite from left to moderate right. Act while it is not too late. Because as the government and Fidesz are losing popularity they will introduce more and more restrictive legislation. Soon enough all "legal avenues will be closed." And that can lead to catastrophe.

And finally, a few moments after the announcement of the Media Council's intention to sell the frequency to a music station a petition appeared on the internet: "Say no to the closing of KlubRádió": http://www.peticiok.com/mondj_nemet_a_klubradio_megszuntetesere By the way, I was pleased to hear that KlubRádió has well over 100,000 listeners, although in certain larger cities it cannot be heard. It is certainly my favorite, the only Hungarian radio station I listen to.

 

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peter litvanyi
Guest

Dear Eva,
thanks for the article.
I don’t personally agree with the label you put on TMG. In fact I SHARPLY disagree. TMG is a very important thinker/ politician who is one in a million. As such he is often wrong but really right even when he was wrong. We mathematicians /ex from my part/ know this phenomenon. Reminds me of Sir Winston in a weird way.
Anyways:



for those who want to hear him in English.
One can find many more references in Hungarian or French /of course/.
Community radio station systems are a very good idea. I support KGNU Boulder and KUVO Denver + “Democracy Now” /Amy Goodman/. NPR was a bad example. For one it is not really “community” station while it accepts donations. Second our dear republicans are about to eliminate it: a story not very different from the KlubRadio one. I will send a tiny check to KlubRadio; all I can afford. Anyone with any idea?
Peter Litvanyi

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Peter Litvanyi: “NPR was a bad example. For one it is not really “community” station while it accepts donations.”
I’m not sure what you mean by “community station.” KlubRadio is more than a local station. In fact, it is more “public radio” than Magyar Rádió.
NPR local stations two or three times organize campaigns where they ask listeners to contribute. In this respect NPR and KlubRádió of late are similar.

Ron
Guest

By the way is there any news from the other former (Slager and Danubius) radio station’s owners. A year ago I understand that they would attack the verdict.
And what about Sztar radio any news on this.
All three were my favourite radio stations. Nowadays I only listen to music via Mp3.

Johnny Boy
Guest

“the only Hungarian radio station I listen to.”
And it shows. Klubrádió, originally stolen from Autóklub (a station meant for car owners and drivers), is the only little enclave of insanity on the air, and you close your deprived mind from anything else that could show the lot larger outside world to you. You keep yourself in the matrix.

Member

Johnny Boy: “And it shows. Klubrádió, originally stolen from Autóklub”
Yes everyone, leave the stealing for Fidesz, and listen to stations Johnny Boy listens to, and than all of you could be, just like him.
So Johnny, the question was (let me translate), what do you think about the Rakosi type tactics Fidesz employs to silence those who do not agree with them. (Did you donate your one month wage yet? Did you sign up to the Chines exchange program?)

Member

Johnny! “Easily justifiable military actions” for a hundred frogs and a few truckloads off pebble from the “diverted” river banks?? Go ahead, get your ass shot for this. What kind of warmonger are you?

Johnny Boy
Guest

someone: I couldn’t care less for Klubrádió. I honestly hate it. Not because they “disagree” but because they lie and instigate.
I don’t wish their demise but won’t shred a tear if they do so. However, it is certain that the ‘journalists’ at this sewage channel will easily find their way to resurface, if not within this radio then in another radio station. Nobody is stopping them from doing so. Most of the media is anti-Fidesz anyway, they will find their places there.

Johnny Boy
Guest

Sorry for being offtopic (I occasionally do that), but BREAKING:
BKV won against Alstom at the court of second instance, the judgement is in effect, and Alstom has 5 days to transfer 35 billion HUF back to BKV.
Long live justice! And now go for a new tender. Au revoir.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

JB and Alstom. I think you misunderstood the situation. Alstom only wanted to prevent BKV to get the loan guarantee for buying the metro cars. It doesn’t mean that Alstom is returning the money to BKV. Here it is in Hungarian:
“A városvezetés ma délután jelentette be, hogy lehívhatja a BKV a metrókocsi-szerződés bankgaranciáját, miután a másodfokon eljáró versailles-i bíróság jogerősen elutasította a gyártó, a francia Alstom Transport kérelmét, így a Bayerische Landesbank és a Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank teljesítheti fizetési kötelezettségét.”
Learn to read first.

kis fiu
Guest

Apparently JB has no problems with closing down radio stations if he doesnt happen to agree with the opinions of the people working there. I wonder why Im not surprised. I also like his proposed solution: those journalists should just work somewhere else! And supposing they do find another outlet but keep the same opinions…by JBs logic the new radio station should also be shut down.
I guess we have given up all pretences of being democrats.

Member

… poor Johnny. For a moment he thought we payed back he frogs for Trianon …

Johnny Boy
Guest

“Learn to read first.”
You should have said that to a mirror.
You failed to interpret the simple written text. The two things (BKV can recall the loan guarantee and Alstom giving back the money) are exactly the same.
21 billion HUF is alread back at BKV and another 14 billion is to come. It is going to be done in 5 days, by law.
You rooted so much for Tarlós and his people to fail but you failed miserably instead.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

JB: “The two things (BKV can recall the loan guarantee and Alstom giving back the money) are exactly the same.”
You’re wrong. You will see.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

JB: “You rooted so much for Tarlós and his people to fail but you failed miserably instead.
Here is another Hungarian text that might elucidate the situation:A másodfokon eljáró bíróság hatályon kívül helyezte a Nanterrei Kereskedelmi Bíróság elnökének 2010. december 3-án hozott határozatát, mely megtiltotta, az érintett bankoknak, hogy kifizessék a BKV által lehívott bankgaranciát. A bíróság megállapította, hogy a BKV Zrt. 2010. december 3-án szabályosan hívta le a bankok által a társaság javára kibocsátott bankgaranciákat; és elutasította az Alstom kérelmét, amelyben megtiltotta a fizetési kötelezettség teljesítését a BKV Zrt. felé”
The court didn’t decide on whether BKV will get back the deposit but Alstom wanted to prevent BKV to get to the loans. Please read more carefully.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

JB, In case you still don’t understand:
“Az Alstom ugyanakkor hozzátette, hogy a bíróság nem vizsgálta a BKV szerződésbontását, amelyet ők továbbra is jogszerűtlennek tartanak, ezért a megfelelő módon és fórumokon folytatják szerződéses jogaik érvényesítését.”
In English, the court didn’t deal with breaking of the contract that Alstom still finds illegal and they will continue to defend their contractual rights. So, no money is coming back to BKV from Alstom.

Johnny Boy
Guest

“Az Alstom ugyanakkor hozzátette, hogy a bíróság nem vizsgálta a BKV szerződésbontását”
Alstom is lying. (Not the first time.) This was exactly what the court has decided on. And its CONSEQUENCE is that the money must be transferred back to BKV.
“So, no money is coming back to BKV from Alstom”
Either you can’t read or you lie. I not too long ago pointed out that 21 billion has ALREADY been transferred to BKV but you just ignore the facts that you don’t like.
See: “A Bayerische Landesbank már át is utalt 21 milliárd forintot a BKV számlájára a metrószerelvények bankgaranciájának összegéből – közölte Tarlós István főpolgármester.”
http://www.stop.hu/articles/article.php?id=888662
http://hetivalasz.hu/itthon/tarlos-21-milliard-forint-mar-megerkezett-a-bkv-szamlajara-38562
http://www.klubradio.hu/cikk.php?id=16&cid=128525
How many links do you want?
In the remaining few days, the whole amount will be transferred.

Isadora Kohn
Guest

Free Palestine!

Isadora Kohn
Guest

Would it take 2 seconds or 2 minutes to spike my comment, tolerant bitch?

Kirsten
Guest

You have manners, wow. Could you tell me why exactly insolent people such as you expect others to be tolerant in return?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kristen: “You have manners, wow. Could you tell me why exactly insolent people such as you expect others to be tolerant in return?”
I’m not giving him/her the satisfaction of taking him/her off. It’s better this way. He/she can show thousands of people what barbarians are in the world and what pathological case he/she is.

Member

“Free Palestine!”
.. with a purchase of any Palestine, equal or lesser value …
Greeting from the Land Of The Free

Member

Isadora Kohn: “Would it take 2 seconds or 2 minutes to spike my comment, tolerant bitch?” Isadora, I am not sure if your mother reads this blog. THis is Eva’s blog (is your mom Eva too?), and I am sure she is not your mother, so I assume you have put this comment on the wrong board. Why don’t you call your mom directly so there are no mistakes again, and ask her the same question. Have a great day, and pass on my congrats to your mom, she did a great job raising you with such fine qualities.

Member

ps: Do you think Isadora is JB’s wife or lover?

Kirsten
Guest

someone, I was thinking about whether it could not be JB himself…

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kirsten: “someone, I was thinking about whether it could not be JB himself…”
Being the “owner” of this blog I am privy to more information about the commenters than you people. I can assure you that Isadora is not JB. They are thousands of miles away from each other. However, I’m almost certain that Isadora is also Hungarian although he/she lives abroad. And in case you think that he lives in North America, you’re wrong. He is adding to the culture of Western Europe. There is a Hungarian saying: “rontja a levegőt” meaning “spoils the air” in one of the more civilized countries of Europe.

Member

Someone’s comment reminded me on Ali G’s political debate from the movie Ali G In Da House (a must see). In the middle of the debate he says: “This is not a nice way to talk about your Mama!”.
Here is the clip:



Watch it all the way. Better yet, watch the movie.

Paul
Guest

“and you close your deprived mind from anything else that could show the lot larger outside world to you”
Astonishing self-analysis from JB, there.
I felt quite humbled.

Paul
Guest

By the by – I am puzzled as to why our new troll thinks that posting ‘Free Palestine!’ is such a provocative thing to do.
I have been an active member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign for some years and have attended many of their demos and meetings, often wearing a badge that spells out exactly what this troll finds so outrageous.
It says much about the Hungarian loony right that they can reduce the complicated politics of the Middle East to the moronic simplicity of ‘pro-Jew’ v ‘anti-Jew’.
Some parts of the Hungarian political ‘spectrum’ seem to be stuck in a time warp where it is forever the 1940s.

thomas
Guest

Why would anyone waste the time to comment on Johnny Boy’s posts. Just ignor him,

peter litvanyi
Guest

“I’m not sure what you mean by “community station.” KlubRadio is more than a local station. In fact, it is more “public radio” than Magyar Rádió.”
Dear Eva,
you got me in a way.I am not saying that your analogy was right. I just did some research about NPR’s status and budget. What I found really surprised the socks off me. I am a bit confused at this point about my own American system; I thought I knew how it worked /or not really/ but obviously this is not the case. I would appreciate if we could actually discuss this VERY ESSENTIAL ISSUE of how bradcasting is EXACTLY partitioned/subsidized/sold/regulated here /or elsewhere in the world inluding Hungary/. I need to do some resarch before I can make an intelligent statement: at this point let me take some time. Let’s get back to this soon: it’s worth the effort.
Thanks:
Peter Litvanyi

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