As the Orbán regimes shuts down pro-democracy Klubrádió, Canada’s CBC raises awareness

It’s something of a funeral, although with certain glimmers of hope, at Budapest’s Klubrádió: the last remaining pro-democracy talk radio station in Hungary. Hungarian courts, beholden to the Fidesz party state, have decided to strip the station of its FM frequency, citing legal “infractions.” In essence, the station’s frequency license will expire at midnight on Valentine’s Day and the authorities have refused to renew it. Moving forward, the radio will aim to continue its news reporting and talk radio programmes only through live-streaming online broadcasts. With a significant proportion of the radio’s Budapest-centric listener base being an older generation of Hungarians, an online only radio may not be accessible to everyone — although in today’s age, it is likely to still reach most of the existing audience of around 200,000 people.

February 14th: The last day at Budapest’s Klubrádió, at least in its current form.klur

In an in-depth report and analysis written by CBC’s Don Murray, the Canadian public broadcaster speaks of the strategy employed by Viktor Orbán, as well as Poland’s Jaroslaw Kaczynski, often referred to as the “slow squeeze.” Fidesz party interests have gradually bought up the publishing firms and owners of nearly every previously independent, pro-democracy paper and have either shut down their publications or have tamed them. The CBC refers specifically to how Index, Hungary’s largest political online daily, was bought up and turned into a “tamed animal” over the past 12 months. Not mentioned in the CBC piece, but more scandalous, was the elimination of the country’s largest paper of record, the Népszabadság daily, in 2016. In the case of Klubrádió, the regime is using its courts, stripped of their independence, to silence the station through trumped up charges. That strategy has a longstanding history in pre-1989 communist Hungary, which was a relatively soft dictatorship. The non-profit sector and academic institutions have all experienced the same “slow squeeze” under the current regime.

Meanwhile, the European Union has not only proven itself toothless when faced with wayward Hungary and Poland — doing little more than issuing belated and mostly milquetoast verbal condemnations — but through lavish funding and subsidies of these poorer eastern states, they ultimately prop up the regimes and their oligarchic business interests financially.

The one silver lining for Hungary mentioned in the CBC article is changing public opinion. For several months, the opposition parties — committed to running jointly in the Spring 2022 national elections — are either neck-and-neck with Fidesz or are ahead. According to the latest Republikon poll, published in late January, the united opposition has the support of 35 percent of voters, while Fidesz is in second place with 30 percent. Thirty-three percent remain undecided.

Whether a peaceful change in regime in Hungary is a possibility remains to be seen.

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