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Hungary worried about possible return of Radio Free Europe

Budapest, Hungary – Hungarian officials aren’t too enthused about the growing rumours that Radio Free Europe, the iconic Cold War-era U.S. broadcaster, might be preparing its comeback in Hungary after more than 25 years of absence.

Radio Free Europe could soon relaunch in Hungary

Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto recently called the possible return of Radio Free Europe in the country an “insult”, further dismissing claims that media freedom is increasingly curtailed in Hungary.

“It’s fake news about Hungary. There is absolutely a media freedom” in Hungary, he said, further claiming it’s impossible to “name one sector of media – be it Internet, be it radio, be it television – where the market would be pro-government”.

Last month, the New York Times first reported about the possible return of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Hungary, a Cold-War era, pro-democracy radio service, ran by independent U.S. federal Agency for Global Media, that left Hungary in 1993 after the fall of communism.

Hungary has “highest level” of media concentration in Europe

Considering its mission is to bring independent news “where a free press is banned or not fully established”, the Hungarian government has, expectedly, not taken the news so well.

“It is likely to be taken as something of an affront to the current government under Prime Minister Viktor Orban” and “a blow to President Trump’s outreach to the country’s far-right Prime Minister”, wrote NYT correspondent Benjamin Novak.

It’s now awaiting the green light from the U.S. Congress to restart operations in Budapest.

Despite the Hungarian Foreign Minister’s claim, it’s estimated that around 90% of media outlets, both public and private, in Hungary have been taken over by the government or are controlled by close allies to Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

“They have achieved the highest level of controlling the media across Europe”, sums up Marius Dragomir, head of the Center for Media, Data and Society at the Central European University.