Neelie KROES
Vice-President of the European Commission

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Latest developments on media freedom in Hungary

Vaire Vika Freiberga, photo under CC license by Aivis Freidenfelds

I am on my way to the World Economic Forum in Davos where I will present my plans for setting up the European Cloud Partnership – but more on that in the coming days. I first wanted to share the latest news with you regarding the situation of media freedom and pluralism in Hungary. Yesterday I met with the CEO of Klubradio, a radio station in Hungary with a lot of often quite critical political commentary. He told me that they have lost 8 local frequencies in 2011 alone (as and when their previous rights expired, and that a new frequency assignment to Klubradio last year for the key Budapest region had been retracted by the incoming Media Council) – isn’t that worrying? It seems that high music content has been given priority over political commentary and discussion in the latest tender for Budapest. EU Member States have a wide discretion in setting the conditions for open tenders for radio frequency, so this trend has to be carefully examined. However, I have written to the Deputy Prime Minister of Hungary last week to ask for clarifications on the overall situation. Today, the independent high-level group on freedom and pluralism of the media - that I had set up in October last year - met for the second time. You might recall that I had asked the group to draw up a report for the Commission with recommendations for the respect, protection, support and promotion of pluralism and freedom of the media in Europe by the end of this year. They discussed the situation in Hungary (as well as other Member States - such as Italy and France) and were given a presentation by an expert on the Assessment of the Consistency of Hungary’s Media Laws with European Practices and Norms. For instance, the study notes that the Hungarian media authority has a concentration of powers unique across Europe. I can highly recommend that study if you want to learn more on this issue. In the press conference after the meeting, the chair of the group, Prof. Vaira Vike-Freiberga (former President of Latvia) stated that Hungary had put itself in a position of potential danger to media freedom and the Government would be wise to consider how to get out of it. You can listen to the parts of the press conference here and here. Lastly, on Friday, I will sit on a panel in a discussion titled "Leadership in the Information Age" in Davos with Mr Thorbjørn Jagland, the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe (the body responsible for the European Convention on Human Rights which has helped protect us since 1953.) He and his colleague Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, are quite crucial in protecting the media freedom in Hungary and across Europe – therefore I am very keen to discuss current risks and challenges to media freedom with him and how we can further improve our cooperation in the future. I will keep you updated.
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  • Blunderingly, the recent frequency winner Autoradio has now offered to Klubradio (that has lost its key frequency at Autoradio)  to re-purchase the frequency for 200 Mio Forint. Amazing too that the owners of Autoradio are fully unknown,  covered by a lawyer who doesn't say anything. Hungary's major problem is the media authority NMHH and its centralist, powerful structure, managed by a group of pure Fidesz people under the lead of an Orbán confidant. I believe the EU must raise its efforts significantly in order to enforce fundamental changes. Despite all the acclamations and good will this hasn't happened yet.
  • If that's the only way after more than 20 years to finally break the communist hegemony in media, than it's worth it!
  • Prof. Vike-Freiberga's group might also examine the selection process for members of the Electronic Media Council in Latvia where the criteria for selection remain a secret and political favouritism seems to be the order of the day. 
  • This story is incorrect....
  • How nice that the EU is Protecting the Post communist regime in Hungary! It's TRANSPARENTLY has nothing to do with the power transfer of the Communist Regim's  and it's ill privatization toward the EU!
  • It is strange that the real facts are never quoted: getting a radio-frequency is not about being choosen; it is a free market, and you only get a product if you offer the highest bid. And in the case of Klubradio, they were just overbid by a commercial station. But then again Klubradio was a means of communication for the MSZP (the Hungarian Socialist Party). And MSZP is rightfully afraid, as the Hungarian people wants to shake of the old communist heritage. They have little support in Hungary itself, so now they turned to foreign politicians to get some leverage. And obviously, they are doing very well when they get a liberal commissaris to argue their case in EU.
  • Klubradio was a means of communication for the MSZP, that's right. So I don't really get it!
  • What sort of economic theory do you subscribe to?  The Keynesian or the Austrian economics?
  • Who moderates said frequencies? Doesn't the goverment have some kind of board that moderates this or is hungary really letting private companies rule that?
  • Yet another hate speech by the commissioner of the anti-Hungarian agenda. In theory the commissioner is independent from the states, but Mrs. Neelie Kroes has appointed a member of the Dutch royal family as adviser, an outstanding example of favoritism. I am wondering how independent is a member of the royal family from the Netherlands... Human rights and freedoms are used as a blackmail tool by the USA against China. Mrs. Neelie Kroes is using the same tool against Hungary. I think Mrs. Neelie Kroes should focus more on the Netherlands where human trafficking and slavery is happening every day in the middle of Amsterdam. Each day Eastern European women are trafficked to the red light district and forced to "work" as sex-slaves. Each time I read your hate speeches, I feel the need to vomit.

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