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Orban’s Victory Knocks Out a Media Critic

Closure of a daily and radio station owned by opposition magnate tightens the ruling party’s grip on tools of power.

11 April 2018

A venerable daily owned by a staunch foe of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party will print its final issue today, three days after Fidesz secured four more years in power.

 

Magyar Nemzet, founded in 1938, used to support Prime Minister Viktor Orban until his falling out with its owner, Lajos Simicska. Its sister radio station, Lanchid, will also close, Politico reports, citing Hungarian media.

 

Hir TV, a news channel in the same media group, will impose steep cost-cutting measures, the news site Index.hu reported.

 

Screenshot of the Magyar Nemzet homepage.

 

According to Reuters, Magyar Nemzet’s exit leaves Index and RTL, a television channel owned by Bertelsmann of Germany, as the only remaining independent media with widespread reach, while Lanchid Radio was “the last independent commercial radio station to broadcast countrywide,” The Budapest Beacon writes.

 

The last surviving independent national newspaper, Nepszava, has far fewer readers than Index, Reuters says.

 

The conservative-leaning Magyar Nemzet’s liberal counterpart among serious dailies, Nepszabadsag, closed up shop in 2016 after being purchased by “allies” of Orban, Bloomberg says.

 

Nepszabadsag’s owner said it suspended publication because of falling profits, although civil rights groups and opposition parties suspected Orban’s government had a heavy hand in it, after the paper uncovered corruption cases involving members of Orban’s inner circle.

 

“Widely-read regional newspapers also passed into ownership friendly to Orban’s Fidesz party and now often churn out near-identical content on the premier,” Bloomberg adds.

 

Fidesz won nearly half the vote in Sunday’s election, with preliminary results indicating it will secure the two-thirds control of parliament it needs to be able to push through constitutional changes, the BBC reports. Jobbik, the nationalist party heavily backed by Simicska, remains the largest opposition party after taking 20 percent of the vote.

 

 

  • Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the election process was "characterized by a pervasive overlap between state and ruling party resources, undermining contestants’ ability to compete on an equal basis," the Budapest Business Journal reports.

 

  • “Voters had a wide range of political options but intimidating and xenophobic rhetoric, media bias and opaque campaign financing constricted the space for genuine political debate, hindering voters’ ability to make a fully-informed choice," the OSCE report said.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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