Fears Hungary no longer has neutral newspaper voice after closure of independent daily Nepszabadsag

One of Hungary’s biggest news outlets has folded after 20 years of breaking news.

The broadsheet Nepszabadsag, has suspended publication of the daily newspaper and has taken its extensive digital archives offline, meaning two decades of stories have now gone for good.

The company that recently took on the publishing lease, Opimus Press Zrt., said it was going to “consider the options” of the independent paper when it took over last month and announced this week that it had come to the decision there was “neither rational possibility nor economic basis” for allowing the left-wing publication to continue operating.

Opimus Press Zrt., a publicly traded company recently registered on the Budapest Stock Exchange and linked to Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s close friend Lorinc Meszaros, acquired the 60-year-old broadsheet’s publisher, Mediaworks, and has ceased trading the paper within just two weeks of taking over.

Opimus is run by Gabor Liszkay, who is the owner and publisher of pro-government print daily Magyar Idok (“Hungarian Times”) which regularly sees government advertising appear within its pages, something that did not happen within Nepszabadsag.

It is estimated that around 17 billion HUF (£45.3 million) was spent by the government advertising “public service announcements” across pro-government media platforms warning of the “threat posed by migrants.”

The sudden suspension of Nepszabadsag (“Folk Freedom”) has resulted in warning bells being rung by critics who say there is no longer a “neutral voice” being printed.

Critics have stated Hungary’s “Fundamental Law” which says pluralism must be maintained has now gone. It has been said that there is now no longer a newspaper to hold the government to account as all of the major media outlets are now controlled by the Prime Minister or his close “inner circle” of friends.

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4 thoughts on “Fears Hungary no longer has neutral newspaper voice after closure of independent daily Nepszabadsag”

  1. One detail left out in this story is that this newspaper was the official Communist Party newspaper, and thus for most of it’s history was the official organ of a totalitarian and anti-free press government. With the fall of Communism, it has become for most Hungarians an unpleasant reminder of an era of lies and repression, and was out of step with modern Hungary. Newspapers have been declining in this modern digital age, and to see a newspaper with such a deplorable past fall by the way-side shouldn’t be a surprise. It leeched off of state subsidies for long enough during it’s sordid history. It’s place is rightfully in the dustbin of history.

  2. Hundreds of people (including journalists) have taken to staging a three day protest outside the Warsaw parliament (see Warsaw Voice: Monday 19 December) and opposition MPs have staged a sit-in to defend the media’s rights to report on parliamentary business, against the government’s plans to restrict media access to debates and votes, and much of the British media (including Press Gazette) looks the other way. Why is that?

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