Friday

20th Jan 2017

EU hesitant on Hungary newspaper closure

The EU can do little to safeguard media pluralism in member states, even as Hungary's largest newspaper remains shut down for a second day.

Hungary's largest daily newspaper, Nepszabadsag, unexpectedly halted its print and online editions on Saturday (8 October).

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Its owner, Mediaworks, cited economic losses as reason for the move, but journalists, civil rights groups and opposition parties suspect interference by prime minister Viktor Orban's government, whose Fidesz party had been the target of Nepszabadsag investigations.

The European Commission said on Monday (10 October) it was "concerned about the suspension” and that it was “following the issue closely”.

But a spokesperson said that even if it found foul play, there was little it could do.

"Our role has to be within our competencies," the spokesperson said, highlighting that the EU had no legislation on print media.

"It is mainly up for member states to protect media freedom and pluralism within their country," the spokesperson said.

According to one commission source familiar with the issue, the EU executive is trying to establish what happened at Nepszabadsag.

However, the source said, there was little chance for action without political will from the European Commission, especially from Gunther Oettinger, the German commissioner responsible for media.

First reactions from the European Parliament also sounded hesitant.

The Socialist group put out a strong statement on Saturday condemning the closure of Nepszabadsag, while liberal leader Guy Verhofstadt tweeted: "With its current policies, Hungary would not have been allowed to join EU in 2004. This has to stop."

A source close to the Socialist group told this website that they would "surely do something" about Nepszabadsag, but did not know which method to use.

Another Socialist source said: “It would surprising if anything concrete would come up."

The source said that several previous EP resolutions on rule of law and media pluralism have not prompted any changes in the policies of the Hungarian government, but have in fact boosted Orban's popularity.

Sources from the centre-right EPP group said the suspension of Nepszabadsag publication was clearly an economic issue and had nothing to do with Orban.

They also rebuked the idea that the EPP should re-examine Orban's membership in the group.

But Pedro Lopez de Pablo, a spokesperson of the group, told this website, "it is regrettable" that Nepszabadsag closed, "no matter if they were against or for Orban".

"One newspaper less means one less opportunity for freedom of speech," he said.

Work still stalled

Nepszabadsag journalists attempted for a second time to access their offices on Monday, but in vain.

The management of Mediaworks postponed the agreed negotiations with the paper's editor-in-chief citing illnesses.

Nepszabadsag journalists continued work, posting some stories on Facebook, and symbolically offering to buy the brand for €1.

Brexit men launch anti-EU website

Westmonster, modelled on hard-right US websites, said it was: "Pro-Brexit, pro-Farage, pro-Trump. Anti-establishment".

News in Brief

  1. Report: Hollande thinking of EU council bid
  2. Italy to hold 70% of Monte dei Paschi bank
  3. Nato hit by 500 cyberattacks every month
  4. Hundreds of migrants face German security review
  5. Outgoing US vice-president warns Europe on Russia
  6. German far-right party calls for end to WWII guilt
  7. First Chinese freight train arrives in Europe
  8. Europe has no vision, says Italian minister

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children
  2. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  4. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  5. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  6. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  7. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  8. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  9. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  10. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London
  11. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhDs Across Europe on the Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU - Apply Now!
  12. Dialogue PlatformInterview: Fethullah Gulen Condemns Assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey

Latest News

  1. 'Be patient,' ECB chief tells Germany
  2. EU cannot copy Australia's offshore asylum model
  3. Brexit men launch anti-EU website
  4. Germany details its 'Marshall Plan' for Africa
  5. IMF predicts 'pain' for UK, as banks prepare London exit
  6. EP deal could help Tusk keep Council job
  7. UN struggles to monitor fate of readmitted Syrians in Turkey
  8. European space chief: Moon village is 'more or less a fact'