I am on my way to the World Economic Forum in Davos where I will present my plans for setting up the European Cloud Partnership – but more on that in the coming days.
I first wanted to share the latest news with you regarding the situation of media freedom and pluralism in Hungary. Yesterday I met with the CEO of Klubradio, a radio station in Hungary with a lot of often quite critical political commentary. He told me that they have lost 8 local frequencies in 2011 alone (as and when their previous rights expired, and that a new frequency assignment to Klubradio last year for the key Budapest region had been retracted by the incoming Media Council) – isn’t that worrying? It seems that high music content has been given priority over political commentary and discussion in the latest tender for Budapest. EU Member States have a wide discretion in setting the conditions for open tenders for radio frequency, so this trend has to be carefully examined. However, I have written to the Deputy Prime Minister of Hungary last week to ask for clarifications on the overall situation.
Today, the independent high-level group on freedom and pluralism of the media – that I had set up in October last year – met for the second time. You might recall that I had asked the group to draw up a report for the Commission with recommendations for the respect, protection, support and promotion of pluralism and freedom of the media in Europe by the end of this year. They discussed the situation in Hungary (as well as other Member States – such as Italy and France) and were given a presentation by an expert on the Assessment of the Consistency of Hungary’s Media Laws with European Practices and Norms. For instance, the study notes that the Hungarian media authority has a concentration of powers unique across Europe. I can highly recommend that study if you want to learn more on this issue.
In the press conference after the meeting, the chair of the group, Prof. Vaira Vike-Freiberga (former President of Latvia) stated that Hungary had put itself in a position of potential danger to media freedom and the Government would be wise to consider how to get out of it. You can listen to the parts of the press conference here and here.
Lastly, on Friday, I will sit on a panel in a discussion titled “Leadership in the Information Age” in Davos with Mr Thorbjørn Jagland, the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe (the body responsible for the European Convention on Human Rights which has helped protect us since 1953.) He and his colleague Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, are quite crucial in protecting the media freedom in Hungary and across Europe – therefore I am very keen to discuss current risks and challenges to media freedom with him and how we can further improve our cooperation in the future. I will keep you updated.