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Hungarian radio station critical of Orban faces battle to renew its licence

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People march during a protest for media freedom after the editor-in-chief of Index, Hungary\'s leading independent news website was fired, in Budapest, Hungary.

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12th-Sep-2020       
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Reuters, Budapest :
Hungary's media authority said on Friday it would not automatically renew the licence of an opposition radio station, stoking fresh concerns about media freedom under Prime Minister Viktor Orban's nationalist government.
Klub Radio is one of a dwindling number of outlets critical of Orban, whose growing control of the media is among various issues that have prompted strong criticism from the European Union over the rule of law and democratic standards in Hungary.
The station, where opposition politicians and talk show guests often criticise government policies, can re-apply for the licence, due to expire in February 2021, but will have to compete for it, the Media Council said. If it loses, it will be able to broadcast online only.
Klub was once a national radio network but for years it has only reached the Budapest market after losing other national licences several years ago. It is popular among left-wing intellectuals but reaches only about 200,000 people daily, or 2% of the population.
The Media Council, made up of government appointees, said it would open up the frequency because of a string of regulatory offences by Klub radio in its current seven-year licence term. It did not specify the offences.
Klub radio said on its website that the reference to regulatory offences was false, adding it would "seek legal and other channels to ensure that the last remaining radio channel reaching hundred of thousands of Hungarians with credible information is not silenced".
Orban has long been under EU pressure to reverse reforms of the media, judiciary, education and non-governmental organisations that Brussels says undermine democracy. He rejects such criticism and has refused to change tack.
The main centre-right grouping in the European Parliament has suspended Orban's Fidesz party over the perceived democratic shortcomings but has declined to expel it.

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