Saturday

17th Nov 2018

Hungary's main opposition media shuts down after election

Hungary's main opposition daily newspaper Magyar Nemzet will shut down on Wednesday (11 April), the publisher announced on Tuesday following prime minister Viktor Orban's landslide victory on Sunday.

The publisher cited financial reasons, and said the online version and a sister radio, Lanchid, will cease their operations as well.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The 80-year old Magyar Nemzet (Hungarian Nation) has been the largest print daily that retained an opposition voice in a media landscape dominated by state or government-aligned outlets, and an advertising market controlled by the government.

Magyar Nemzet is owned by Lajos Simicska, an oligarch and a former key ally of Orban, turned staunch opponent after falling out in 2015.

Simicska's media empire, which also includes broadcaster HirTV, has suffered heavy losses as the publications were deprived of state advertising.

Mertek Institute media analyst Gabor Polyak said it was only a matter of time before Simicska shut down his unprofitable media organisations after the elections.

Polyak pointed out however that the Hungarian advertising market is not working properly due to the overwhelming government influence.

"State advertisements are tools of exerting political pressure. If a company advertises in Magyar Nemzet for instance, that is considered by the government as taking a political stand, so that company risks being singled out by the state for inspection and other forms of harassment," Polyak told EUobserver, adding that Hungarian independent media is struggling to find advertisements.

"State advertisement designates where is it allowed and not allowed to have advertisement," he added.

At the same time, Simicska is also running out of money.

Once one of the main beneficiaries of contracts stemming from EU cohesion funds, Simicska has been losing out heavily on public tenders since he broke with his childhood friend, Orban.

He has vowed to bring down Orban, and many expected an "atomic bomb" from him, incriminating information on the prime minister or top politicians from Orban's Fidesz party that could change the widely expected outcome the elections. That never materialised due to Simicska's suspected own involvement in corruption.

Magyar Nemzet has recently revealed several corruption stories that shed light on the high-level graft within top Fidesz circles. Before turning against Orban, Magyar Nemzet was considered a pro-government newspaper loyal to Fidesz.

"Magyar Nemzet has become an important hub for journalism recently, they have become important in uncovering corruptions stories," Polyak said, adding that the situation of Hungary's journalists was tragic.

Since Orban had lost support of Simicska's media empire, the prime minister's top aides built another Fidesz-friendly media empire by buying stakes in media and advertising businesses, and the government also turned the state media into the government's mouthpiece.

In 2016 businessmen close to Orban purchased then shut down Nepszabadsag, the country's top opposition newspaper. The premier's top circles also bought nearly all regional dailies.

The remaining independent publications with widespread reach are the news website Index.hu, owned by Simicska associates, and the RTL television group owned by Germany's Bertelsmann.

Orban, who held a press conference on Tuesday did not comment in detail about the closure of Magyar Nemzet.

"The government and me personally are not involved in business affairs. These are privately owned publications, their owners will decide their fate," he said.

After Fidesz secured a sweeping two-thirds majority in parliament on Sunday's general election, the expectation is high that the media, the courts and NGOs will be put further under political pressure.

Fidesz has already announced that it will introduce the Stop Soros legislation packagewhich targets NGOs dealing with migration.

Analysis

Orban, the 'anti-Merkel', emboldens European right

Hungary's premier Viktor Orban has inspired 'illiberalism' across central Europe and far-right politicians in the West. His expected re-election this Sunday will further reinforce his standing as a symbol for being tough on Europe's political mainstream.

Commission takes Orban's Hungary to court

The EU executive steps up several probes over Hungary's illiberal tendencies, while it is also suing Poland and the Czech Republic over migrant quotas.

News in Brief

  1. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  2. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem
  3. Protesters call for Czech leader to step down
  4. Former German chancellor labelled 'enemy' of Ukraine
  5. French lead opposition to Brexit deal on fisheries
  6. Private accounts of Danske Bank employees investigated
  7. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  8. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  2. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  3. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  4. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  5. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  6. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  7. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  8. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us