Orbán regime shuts down conservative Századvég journal

The conservative Századvég journal, unwavering in its loyalty to the government of Viktor Orbán for the past eight years, had its most recent issue deleted from the internet and its editors fired for publishing an article that was critical of the manner in which the current government handles the question of benefit programs and public salaries. The journal’s current issue explored the question from different perspectives and from different authors, including Péter Ákos Bod, the former Governor of the Hungarian National Bank (1991-1994) and Minister of Industry and Trade in the conservative government of Prime Minister József Antall.

Publishing Mr. Bod’s article led to the dismissal of Editor-in-Chief Tamás Demeter, as well as the entire team of four who edited the publication. Upon hearing of the mass firings, half the committee that oversees the publication resigned in protest. The Századvég Foundation, which owns the publication, then deleted the entire “offending” issue from its website, to leave no trace of any criticism of the party state.

Around a year ago, Századvég asked Mr. Bod to contribute to an issue dedicated to the question of government benefits and salaries. Mr. Bod’s article criticized the government for skewing the market by first cutting back or withdrawing benefits and then redistributing them. Other authors writing in the same issue and on the same subject took a different perspective on the question. These contributors included Iván Szelényi and Péter Mihályi. But it was Mr. Bod’s criticism of the manner in which benefits and wealth is redistributed that led to the mass firings of the editorial team and the removal of the issue from the public.

Zsolt Rúzsa-Barthel leads the Századvég Foundation and explained the situation around the firings and the deleted issue: “The task of this publication will be to support the government’s direction.”

Earlier, two other conservative publications were also shut down by the party state: namely Kommentár and Heti Válasz.  In the case of Kommentár, the editor-in-chief and the editorial team left their positions when they were informed that the publication would become “more government-friendly.” Prior to that, the conservative Magyar Nemzet ceased publication and HírTV’s team of journalists were fired as the station returned to a state of unquestioning loyalty to the party. As well, the conservative Mandiner news site, previously open to opposing views, was instructed to fall in line. These are all conservative victims of the regime. Our readers will recall that Hungary’s largest national daily newspaper, the centre-left Népszabadság, was shut down by the party state from one day to the next in 2016, using an Austrian proxy.

Gáspár Miklós Tamás summarized the situation aptly when he wrote: “Just as Soviet-style regimes were most fearful of the ‘left-wing risk’…so too the destructive rage of the Orbán regime now targets the ‘wayward right-wingers,’ from Jobbik and the Simicska media to moderate and intellectual conservatives.”

Hungarian journalism has lost an immense amount of talent over the years–reporters from all political stripes fell victim to the party’s power. True, the media purge began with those perceived as too liberal or left-wing. But in 2018, scores of conservative journalists who for most of the past eight years derided or scoffed at the opposition when it drew attention to attacks on independent media are now out of work and have no prospects in Hungary. At this late stage, they hardly have anyone remaining to defend them. Had Martin Niemöller’s timeless words not been forgotten in Hungary, perhaps the situation today would be less bleak.

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