Hungary’s last major independent news site on thin ice

After years of takeovers and meddling, Hungary’s President Orban and his media baron allies could be about to place the final straw to break the camel’s back for independent media in Hungary.

Several months ago, President Orban’s ally, media baron Miklos Vaszily purchased a 50% stake in the company that controls the advertising and revenue of Index (the last major media outlet in Hungary to not be overtly pro Orban).

This sparked concerns for many observers as Vaszily is known to have been important in converting another major news outlet, Origo, into yet another pro Orban mouthpiece. Fears increased last month as Index posted an article claiming that members of the editorial team were “in danger”.

Concerns appear to have been well placed as the board president of Index refused to reinstate the chief editor, causing over 70 members of staff to walk out in protest, going so far as to actually resign, rather than become another pro Orban outlet.

Orban has been accused of antidemocratic practises not limited to muzzling the press. The Hungarian PM also stands accused of attacking independent state institutions and corruption to cement the grip of his far-right Fidesz party on power.

As BBC correspondent for Budapest, Nick Thorpe put it, these events take place within the context of being “in a country where much of the media simply await orders from the government on what to report, and how to report it.”

Despite the repeal of the absolute power placed in Orban’s hands, which allowed him to rule by decree under the pretence of fighting Coronavirus, opposition groups have called out a bill which came out alongside this revocation.

This new bill would allow the government, under the pretence of a health emergency, to bring back the ability for Orban’s government to rule by decree, taking advantage of the Covid-19 to strengthen his parties already tight and authoritarian grip on the state.

Unfortunately for those in opposition to Orban and his right wing regime this will only be made easier by the slow but steady erosion of independent press within Hungary.

Challenge News Desk

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