Budapest, Hungary – The United States is “deeply concerned about declining media pluralism” in Hungary, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement a few days ago.
US expresses “deep concerns” over media freedom in Hungary after Klubradio ruling
“The imminent loss of the broadcasting license of one of the country’s most popular radio stations, Klubradio, threatens the departure of yet another independent voice from Hungary’s airwaves”, the statement continues.
“The United States shares the concerns of international press freedom advocates and many Hungarians over the decline of media pluralism in Hungary”.
One of the last independent radio stations in Hungary, Klubradio was last week forced to go off the air after a court confirmed the Hungarian Media Council’s decision to revoke its broadcasting license.
The decision, which critics argue is politically motivated and meant to silence a station known for its opposition to the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, has prompted a backlash among local and international rights groups, and faced criticism from a number of EU countries.
“Promote an open media environment”
PM Orban has long been accused of cracking down on independent media since coming to power in 2010, and progressively taking control of the majority of the country’s media landscape.
The statement from the US State Department is one of the first indications that the new Biden administration will pay greater attention than its predecessor to rule of law issues in its foreign policy, including in its bilateral relationship with the government of PM Orban, an outspoken Trump supporter.
On the campaign trail, Joe Biden had infuriated officials in Budapest after comparing Hungary to other “totalitarian regimes” like Belarus.
Urging Hungary “to promote an open media environment”, the US Department of State said it was “committed to strengthening our partnership with Hungary […] and advancing the Biden administration’s commitment to supporting democratic institutions, human rights and the rule of law”.
Main photo credit: Klubradio.hu