On your pages, the Hungarian Media Council suggested that Human Rights Watch was guilty of “double standards, bias and prejudice” in its assessment of its role in two cases in which an independent radio station, Klubrádió, has found itself under pressure (“Knowing the Klubrádió facts”, 20-26 September).
A look at the legal decisions themselves – one of them issued since its letter was published – shows that its argument is unfounded.
In one case, a court disqualified a bid for a frequency, ordering the Media Council to reassess existing bids, with the logical conclusion that the runner-up, Klubrádió, should be pronounced winner. Instead, the Media Cuncil invalidated Klubrádió's bid – a decision ruled unlawful by a Budapest court on 26 September. The other case was sent by the Budapest Appellate Court back to a lower court for procedural reasons. But, on substance, the appellate court found that the Media Council had an obligation to sign a contract with Klubrádió after the station won the frequency.
The on-going efforts by the Media Council to deny Klubrádió a broadcast licence are possible because of excessive powers granted to it by Hungary's media laws. These laws have been criticised by the European Commission and the Council of Europe, both of which have made specific recommendations.
Rather than heeding these recommendations, Hungary amended the media laws in May to give the Media Council further powers to control broadcasting licences, while limiting the ability of the courts to review its decisions. This prompted criticism in June from Neelie Kroes, the European commissioner for the digital agenda.
If the Media Council and the Hungarian government are serious about ending criticism of the country's media laws, they should implement Europe's recommendations.
Lydia Gall Human Rights WatchBudapest