Ideas Shutting of Klubrádió in Hungary

Viktor Orbán inflicts yet another blow to freedom of the press

Yet another independent outlet is slain in Hungary: Klubrádió just lost its broadcast license, resuming a decade-long campaign to silence the channel. Journalists march on, hoping for a lengthy legal battle to do them justice in the end. They have accommodated pressure, but their defiance comes at a high price.

Published on 23 February 2021 at 12:34

One benevolent lie popular with Hungarians is Palma sub pondere crescit, ‘the palm grows under weight’. It suggests something similar to ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, another outrageously stupid statement – as anyone suffering lasting impairments, trauma and/or disabilities will confirm.

The proverb about palm trees was originally meant as a warning against overprotecting youth, but is generally used to rationalize debilitating pressure and unacceptable conditions. I’ve also heard people use it to cheer themselves up, in order to carry on under hopeless circumstances. In their case, I won’t complain, they’re working against the odds.

Over the past years some of these people have been sustaining the independent Hungarian radio Klubrádió, whose broadcast license was withdrawn on 9 February in an exceedingly technical court ruling. The decision resumes a decade-long campaign to silence the broadcaster: first its national frequency use was withdrawn, then its public service status was denied and its advertisers started to disappear. The station is continuing its legal battles and still broadcasting online.

Klubrádió has been maintained mainly by listeners’ donations since 2012, well before the current subscription craze in online media began. It built a strong community at a time when other mainstream journalists mocked crowdfunding as begging. In the meantime, most of what remains of independent media in Hungary asks for donations, often on top of their subscription fees.

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After the iconic Kossuth Rádió was transformed into a government mouthpiece as early as 2010, Klubrádió increasingly took over the position of the classical talk radio station, signing many former public service prime-timers. It became the substitute for the state radio that generations had grown up with since the first quarter of the twentieth century.

Sided with the opposition

Klubrádió is not above criticism. Having worked there for four years, I’m not in the position to acquit them of charges of partiality. The outlet is traditionally left-leaning and has sided with the opposition in Hungary since …

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