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Hungarian Money Flows Into Balkan Media

Two investors close to Viktor Orban now control numerous outlets supportive of nationalists and Orban allies in the region.

13 June 2018

Media observers in Slovenia and Macedonia are keeping a close eye on acquisitions of print and television outlets by investors tied to Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party.

 

“In the past two years, Hungarian businessmen close to [Prime Minister Viktor] Orban have quietly invested in, or started, a handful of right-wing media outlets in Slovenia and in Macedonia,” The New York Times reported recently.

 

Both The Times and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) say two former senior executives with Hungarian public broadcaster MTV, Peter Schatz and Agnes Adamik, are behind the buying spree.

 

Schatz is a co-owner and director of a pro-government Hungarian tabloid and news site, Ripost, which was “one of the three pro-Orban companies to buy into to Slovenia’s Nova24 TV,” OCCRP reported.

 

Screenshot of Ripost's homepage

 

Ripost is also the majority owner of the political magazine Demokracija and the tabloid Skandal24, both controlled by the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS).

 

Nova24 is also close to the conservative party, winner of last week’s parliamentary elections in a result, praised by Orban, that could see the country take a sharp rightward turn if party leader Janez Jansa can assemble a governing coalition.

 

Slovenia’s influential left-leaning magazine Mladina last year described Nova24, like Demokracija, as a “party project” of Jansa’s party, saying SDS members or sympathizers comprised the majority of the 70 shareholders who founded the station in 2015.

 

Schatz also owns a majority stake in the publisher of Demokracija, The Times says.

 

In Macedonia, Schatz last year took control of Alfa TV, which The Times calls a “right-wing” station “that has long supported Nikola Gruevski, the former prime minister who is Mr. Orban’s closest ally in the country.”

 

Adamik, Schatz’s former MTV colleague, set up a firm which this spring took control of seven Macedonian websites and magazines which “have a history of vociferously backing Gruevski and his party,” OCCRP writes.

 

Corporate documents show that Schatz and Adamik used the same law firm to set up their Macedonian companies, OCCRP says.

 

 

  • Gruevski’s nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party lost its long hold on the levers of power in Macedonia last year in a contentious election won by the Social Democrats. Commenting on The New York Times story, Francois Lafond, an adviser to Macedonia’s vice prime minister for European integration, told the Czech business daily Hospodarske noviny it was too early to say if the Hungarian-owned right-wing media would have a large effect on other media or public opinion.

 

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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