European Parliament’s Green party in solidarity with Népszabadság, condemns autocracy in Hungary

The Greens – European Free Alliance issued a statement on the demise of media freedom and pluralism in Hungary, after Népszabadság, Hungary’s largest print daily, was shut down last Saturday. The statement, written by MEPs Judith Sargentini and Benedek Jávor, notes that Népszabadság was closed without warning immediately after the paper published a cover page piece on Fidesz corruption, suggesting that this would be followed by a series of articles on the subject.

Népszabadság’s editorial team still faces an uncertain future. The group has expressed interest in purchasing the paper’s brand and the right to publish for the symbolic amount of 1 euro from the Austrian owner, Mediaworks, but there has been no progress in the negotiations. In 72 hours, two Mediaworks CEOs have resigned (the most recent resignation was said to be due to sudden illness) and it appears  that the Austrian owners used the value of the Népszabadság brand as equity to obtain a bank loan from Hungary’s MKB Bank to fund the firm’s other media acquisitions in Hungary. As such, it may not even be possible to sell the Népszabadság brand to anyone. We are sharing this statement of solidarity with our readers and hope that more such statements and appropriate action will be forthcoming from the European Union.

The Greens - EFA

The biggest Hungarian opposition daily newspaper Népszabadság was summarily shut down over the weekend of 8-9 October 2016. Journalists were told that their offices were being moved to another building and that they should put their things into boxes ready for the move. They were shown where their workstations would be in the new building, and the management had even announced plans for a small party on Sunday evening, for which it had already ordered the pizzas. Then, on Saturday, an unsigned letter from the management was delivered to each of them by courier letting them know that they have been suspended from work, and that they should not bother showing up because they would not be let into the building. Access to their workplace’s computer system, including to their mailboxes, was cancelled, and they were told not to talk about it to anyone. Employee representatives were not contacted by the management before or after the decision to close the paper, which is against the law. The online edition of the newspaper, nol.hu, was also shut down, along with its entire online archive. The publisher says the decision was made on economic grounds, but this is clearly a lie. After years of economic hardship, in 2015 Népszabadság started making a modest profit.

The far more likely cause of the closure is the fact that last week Népszabadság dug up a number of inconvenient facts about two high-ranking officials belonging to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s inner circle – the head of the National Bank and former minister for economy, György Matolcsy, and Orbán’s propaganda minister, Antal Rogán. Although the paper’s publisher, Mediaworks Inc., is owned by the Austrian businessman Heinrich Pecina, foreign ownership is no guarantee of political independence in Hungary, as was amply illustrated by an earlier case involving the major online news outlet Origo.hu, then owned by the Hungarian subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom. In 2014, Origo.hu published a series of articles critical of the government that ended in the site taking János Lázár, the minister in charge of the Prime Minister’s Office, to court in order to gain access to a number of hotel bills he had accrued. The result of this was that the editor-in-chief of Origo.hu was abruptly forced to resign and the news outlet was eventually sold to a media company linked to oligarchs in the ruling party’s business network. Investigative journalism portal Atlatszo.hu and several other newspapers had in fact recently reported that a similar fate might be awaiting Mediaworks, too.

The Greens/EFA Group has consistently voiced its concerns about the developments in Hungary affecting press and media freedom and pluralism ever since a highly controversial media law was adopted in December 2010. It’s clear from the closure of Népszabadság that the emerging autocracy in Hungary is prepared to go far beyond regulatory measures to curb press freedom. Freedom of expression and press freedom may exist in the legal sense, and there are indeed news outlets and other media which are openly critical of the government, but the regime’s strategy is clearly to limit their reach as much as possible and cut off those that might have a major impact. Public service broadcasting, both radio and television, which in theory is supposed to set the standards of independent journalism, has been completely taken over by the government, and has become an instrument of shameless propaganda. The government and state-owned companies are also highly significant advertisers, diverting enormous amounts of public funds to pro-government media. One oligarch within the current regime, also acting as a government commissioner, recently bought the second biggest commercial TV station using public loans which he plans to pay back using public money spent on advertising; he immediately turned it into yet another channel of government propaganda. The aim is clear: to limit the press as much as possible in its role in defending and questioning democracy.

We stand in solidarity with the editors and staff of Népszabadság, and we will make sure that attacks on media freedom like this do not go unnoticed. We urge the political institutions and community of the EU to subject the Hungarian government’s compliance with the fundamental values of the European Union to further scrutiny.

15 Comments

  1. Charlie London says:

    Viktor DictatOrban

    (Or nickname Vikta DiktaOrban!)

  2. There are many words one can use to describe Orbán’s political system – democracy is not one of them. It is an astonishing and a vivid illustration of the failure of EU leadership, that a regime which makes a mockery of European values, and which systematically embezzles at least a third of the billions of Euros given to it by European taxpayers, is continuously propped up, aided and abetted by Brussel’s Bureaucrats. Orbán IS Putin’s “Trojan Horse” in Europe. This has been proven, and documented – yet the majority of Europe’s leadership prefers to stick its head in the sand. It keeps issuing vague and confusing prescriptions about the importance of dialogue with this rogue regime. It prefers to follow the appeasement trajectory that led to the tragic consequences for Europe and the world after 1938. The failure of European leadership to confront the rising tide of aggressive, oftentimes racist authoritarianism within its domains, the failure of the EU to put its house in order, and clean out the elements that are contributing to its decay, will surely come back to haunt it.

    • Hear, hear!

      The EU leaders give ample justification of the far right’s claims that democracy is weak, inefficient and incapable of resolving people’s problems.
      Their handling of the Orban’s fascist “light” regime, which is hiding behind Potyomkin facades of democracy, is an encouragement to other budding dictators riding the waves of discontent.

  3. The way they were kicked out was something really outrageous. Even if the publication was not profitable, there should be something like labour law, or not? To sack people like this?

    • Charlie London says:

      It’s not what it seems?

      David Icke’s lizards from planet ezrathamian landed their spaceship on the Media works building and targeted their mindrays on the executive. They’re working on behalf of Soros and Rothschild (who’s Jewish unnecessarily to say)- who sold the FT – remember?

      Not many people know this – except us, eh Richard?

      Please keep us informed of developments? I’ll do the same.

      • I inform you shouldn’t waste my time in a serious issue when that comment is all you could force out from your poor ailing brain. And discuss my previous post on the thread where I posted not on another and where you hid behind Christ while insulting me you spineless frustrated coward.

        Please have a rest and don’t overstrain your little brain or your little something. :D:D

        Now, enough, place!!!! my little pet chimpanzee hit the restroom where you belong to and play with something else.

        • Correctly: …where you hid behind Chris. Sorry 🙂

          • Charlie London says:

            ‘place!!!’?

            How did you know? That’s the password in ezrathamian which gets you access to the lizards.

            Spooky!

          • Charlie London says:

            I am making you Assistant Regional Superintendent Investigator Of Time-Travel

            I need you to visit ezrathamian to have a dialogue with the Lizards and report back please.

            Don’t forget the password?

  4. Charlie,

    are you mentally O.K. ? Seriously. Look back what you have left behind.

    Reading your very first post that you didn’t write as a reply to me and such as you cannot have the excuse you’re only taunting me I must ask you; are you at your sane mind?

    Look at your first post, it’s not taunting and mocking, it’s on a kindergarten level. Like someone with an IQ of 60 or something and is mentally tragically derailed.

    I think you have lost your mind. Seriously. And it’s really you, the real Charlie.

    • Charlie London says:

      I’ll reply just once?

      Your posting on here on another thread of Icke’s, and other’s, dodgy websites shows that you are conspiracy-theory central.

      And in such volume too.

      You seem to be unable to discern between reality and myth – for what you describe as serious events.

      In adding my conspiracy theories, why do you doubt them?

      They are as credible as yours.

      When you doubt my sanity – you are in fact questioning your own.

      So run along and have a chat with those lizards of ezrathamian?

      But they take so long to warm up – ezrathamian is so far from he sun – that their attention span is just about three sentences.

      Keep your dialogue short? And the password only has three exclamation marks?

  5. Charlie,

    is there a history of insanity in your family? From your very first message you don’t have one that would make sense or speak about the topic.

    I posted a very simple message about how unfair the whole dismissal was and you have gone mad. Started speaking about lizards and other nonsense.

    Your a very sick person. I understand you developed Richardophobia since I debunked your lies and idiotic behavior on the

    http://hungarianfreepress.com/2016/01/31/orban-mussolini-parallels-in-academic-analysis-at-uc-berkeley/

    thread and cannot forgive me that, but today you only proved that I was right and your place is in the mental hospital.

    Please get beck to the topic and don’t use my messages to luxuriate your mental perversion here on this site. However your first message was somewhat sinister and indicated that your mental state will be worsening further on.

    No back to topic if you can.

    Forgive me but I close this message exchange with you for at least one of us should have the common sense to stop this craziness and it seems it cannot be you because your mental condition is worsening. I don’t wanna litter this site full with this.

  6. Child of survivors says:

    Charlie London: it’s not necessary to mention that GS was born a Jew – we, Jews know that and all about him – you know there is a rotten apple amongst a bushel – they get picked and thrown out with their maggots in… why bring this up every single day?

    • Charlie London says:

      Try and discover the word ‘parody’ will you?

      I fear you’ll be long gone trying to find out – a single brain cell has to work awfully hard.

      Your antisemitism won’t be missed either.

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