Friday

24th Feb 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.

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.

MEPs set to approve Canada trade deal

The European Parliament is expected to give the green light to the EU-Canada free trade agreement, which would start being implemented in April.

France's Macron issues Brexit warning

The centrist presidential candidate tells talented Britons to come to France and warns against giving the UK "undue advantages" after Brexit, in a speech in London.

French police raid Le Pen's party office

Officers raid the National Front headquarters near Paris over allegations that leader Marine Le Pen used fake EU parliament contracts to pay her personal staff.

News in Brief

  1. Spanish court jails former IMF chief Rato
  2. Macron proposes Nordic-style economic model for France
  3. Germany posts record high budget surplus
  4. Labour ousts Ukip in Brexit homeland
  5. Dutch lower house approves EU-Ukraine treaty
  6. WTO says Russian pork ban was illegal
  7. Belgian nuclear plant made 'significant progress' on safety
  8. Report: Commission gauging EU support for Poland sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  2. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  3. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  4. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  5. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  6. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  7. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  9. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  11. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  12. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play