US Secretary of State Antony Blinken voiced alarm Wednesday (28 April) at a deterioration of press freedom in Hungary and vowed to press Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to respect pluralism.
Blinken, in a roundtable ahead of World Press Freedom Day, warned that Russia and China were seeking to “undermine the democratic and sovereign will” of Central and Eastern European nations, which he urged to hold firm to principles of openness.
“We have real concern that is shared by international press freedom advocates and many Hungarians over the decline of the pluralism and diversity and independent voices,” Blinken said in response to a question from independent Hungarian news outlet Telex.
Telex is the EURACTIV partner media in Hungary.
“That is the fabric of democracy, and so we would certainly urge the government of Hungary to promote an open environment,” Blinken said.
The United States as well as the European Union “believe that our collective interests are best served by trying to cement democratic norms of rule of law and cooperation based on common values,” Blinken said.
President Joe Biden took office vowing a new focus on democracy, including a summit of democracies, after his predecessor Donald Trump flirted with strongmen.
Orbán allied himself with Trump’s hardline anti-immigration views and Blinken’s predecessor Mike Pompeo visited Hungary, saying it was better to work with the NATO ally than shun it.
Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders last year dropped Hungary 16 points in its annual World Press Freedom Index to 89th place citing a “sharp decline in media freedom.” [Read more]
In February, the Klubradio station, whose news and talk content is often critical of the Hungarian government, lost its appeal to keep its broadcasting license.
Despite ongoing legal challenges, Klubradio said its frequency was awarded this month to Spirit FM, whose owner is allied with Orbán.