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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, March 05, 2013 11:52 am

Hungarian opposition radio wins another court case

By PABLO GORONDIAssociated Press

Opposition broadcaster Klubradio won a favorable court ruling Tuesday in its lengthy legal battle against Hungary's media authorities, raising the station's hopes of gaining a long-term license.

Klubradio, a news-and talk radio station openly critical of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government, has won several lawsuits against the Media Council.

However, it has been operating for more than two years on two-month temporary licenses because the council - whose members were elected only by government-party lawmakers - has continually resorted to innovative legal maneuvers to deny the broadcaster a multi-year license.

In the latest setback for the council, the Budapest Court of Public Administration and Labor said the authorities had been wrong to invalidate Klubradio's license application on grounds that the documents submitted were flawed because the blank pages had not been signed.

The court also said the council's failure to conclude the license procedure in a timely manner could be unconstitutional.

While Klubradio considered that the ruling left the council no option but to negotiate with the broadcaster about the terms of the license, the council said it was studying the court's decision.

"From the Media Council's standpoint, in conformity with the court's latest decision, use of the Budapest 95.3 MHz frequency could be granted through a new procedure," the council said in a statement.

This could mean that the council may continue to defy the court rulings and announce a new tender for the frequency.

While the Council of Europe said in January that Hungary had agreed to amend its media regulations to better comply with its recommendations, experts in Hungary said the compromises reached, including limiting the president of the Media Council to a single nine-year term, were insufficient to effectively improve press freedoms.

Government critics consider Klubradio's struggles emblematic of the problems with Hungary's media law.