Sunday

19th Aug 2018

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).

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

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.

Hungary steps up campaign on migration referendum

Hungary's government has unveiled six billboards linking the migration crisis to terrorism and crime in an effort to win backing for its referendum on the EU's migration policy.

Hungarian journalists to sue publisher

Reporters at Hungary's largest daily newspaper plan legal action against the publisher for halting its publication, amid rumours of political interference.

European states still top media freedom list

Nordic countries Norway, Sweden and Finland still have the world's most free media, according to Reporters Without Borders, but the overall situation is declining.

Analysis

Hungary’s media deconstructed into Orban’s echo chamber

Despite the EU's protests, the Hungarian government has managed to turn the country's media into a propaganda machine. Now the theme that dominates the airways, cables and billboards is: Soros using the EU to transport migrants.

News in Brief

  1. Germany and Greece strike deal on taking back migrants
  2. Merkel confronts far-right critics: '2015 will not be repeated'
  3. UN: Predictable disembarkation process urgently needed
  4. Slovenia set to select former comedian as prime minister
  5. Polish president to veto election rule helping big parties
  6. MEPs blast UK 'alphabetical approach' on citizens rights
  7. EU hits back over Salvini's blame for bridge collapse
  8. Poll: Sweden's social democrat-led government set to win again

Opinion

While Poles defend courts, Kaczynski hijacks EU elections

While Twitter and EU bubble publications are flooded with photos of protesting crowds and "chains of light" in front of the presidential palace, the Law and Justice-controlled senate has adopted a law restructuring the electoral code for 2019's European elections.

EU Commission skirts Italy sanctions on Roma evictions

The European Commission, as guardian of the treaties, declines to sanction Italy's treatment of the Roma following a forced eviction on Thursday of some 300 from a camp in the outskirts of the Italian capital.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation
  2. 'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections
  3. Former Malta opposition leader fears for his life
  4. Women shun EU-funded site for female entrepreneurs
  5. Building a Europe more resilient to terrorism
  6. Brexit talks resume as chance of 'no deal' put at 50:50
  7. US trial sheds light on murky Cyprus-Russia links
  8. Burned cars fuel Swedish election debate

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us