Today is a dark day in Hungary's history. The already battered freedom of the press has suffered yet another blow, this time with the suspension of the biggest and one of the oldest Hungarian daily newspapers, Népszabadság.According to the Agence France-Presse story as published in the Telegraph, the sale is merely being rumoured.
The newspaper was a prestigious news outlet with excellent pundits. Free Market Foundation didn't agree with the position of the paper all the time, nevertheless we were on friendly terms, and they often reported on our activities favourably.
The publisher of Népszabadság has been recently bought by someone close to the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who allegedly directed the purchase and the suspension of operations, as the newspaper had been uncovering sensitive details regarding corruption in the governing party Fidesz.
On Saturday there was speculation that Népszabadság might also be soon sold to an Orbán ally, but Mediaworks, owned by a Austrian media magnate, made no mention of any sale.Mediaworks is insisting that the decision to suspend the newspaper's publication has been made for entirely business reasons as the newspaper, despite being Hungary's biggest-selling broadsheet is a loss-making enterprise and some rethinking is necessary.
Mediaworks, which bought Nepszabadsag and several other Hungarian titles in 2014, said that its circulation had tumbled by 74 percent in the last 10 years, racking up losses of around 5 billion forints (16.4 million euros, $18.4 million).Curiously enough, nobody really believes that and the ineffectual socialist opposition has called for a demonstration outside the newspaper's offices. If it happens, it is likely to be joined by people who do not support the various left-wing parties but are, nevertheless, alarmed at another example of the Hungarian government's propensity to control the media.
The title must try to find a business model appropriate to market trends, the company said, calling on "all affected by the move to concentrate on that task".
Meanwhile, here is a statement from Zoltán Kész who was Director of the Free Market Foundation and is now its Honorary Chairman as well as an independent MP [and a friend of mine]:
Hungary must unite and put an end to this rampage. Enough is enough. The government is disregarding European values and common sense. It is only power that matters to them, as with power they can steal as much money as they want. Corruption is running high in Hungary and the governing politicians are getting rich on the taxpayer and the EU, while the former gets nothing in return and the latter is being attacked by Viktor Orbán.As a matter of fact there is a good deal of EU money being poured into Hungary but its destination is often mysterious and Hungary's economy is in a parlous state as witnessed by the huge exodus of young and not so young, often highly qualified, people.
Nevertheless, Orbán is not Putin and opposition figures are not exiled, imprisoned, beaten up or murdered. Whatever people thought of that referendum, there were no complaints of stuffed ballot boxes and nor have there been any about past elections. So why is the opposition not capable of organizing itself adequately?