Magyar Nemzet: first victim of the new Orbán regime

Magyar Nemzet, one of the two remaining national daily newspapers critical of the government, announced on Tuesday that it would stop operating on April 11.

Ivett Körösi
Ivett Körösi Nepszava, Hungary
Source: Nepszava
Magyar Nemzet: first victim of the new Orbán regime - NewsMavens
BUDAPEST, April 9, 2018 (Xinhua) -- Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban (1st, R) delivers a speech after his ruling Fidesz-KDNP coalition won the general elections. East News

Why this story matters:

Magyar Nemzet's owner, Lajos Simicska, is an affluent businessman and a former friend of the Hungarian PM, Viktor Orbán. They were close allies until a public quarrel in 2015. Afterwards, the formerly pro-government media organizations owned by Simicska became critical.

But on Tuesday April 10, the war between the two men ended.

Simicska capitulated and declared he would not finance Magyar Nemzet further. He also said he would retire from the media sphere.

A pragmatic man, Simicska was aware of the costs he incurred by not supporting Orbán -- losing public procurement tenders, having to compete with businesses who got preferential treatment, to name just a few of the advantages he renounced by not supporting his old friend. 

This is the second major daily newspaper to fold in the last two years. Magyar Nemzet and Népszabadság -- shut down by the government in 2016 -- acted as watchdogs by publishing investigative stories about governmental corruption and lavish spending by ruling politicians.

Media freedom has been deteriorating dramatically since Fidesz started to target independent voices. Some of the newspapers and television stations were bought by oligarchs loyal to the government, Népszabadsag was shut down, and others -- such as Magyar Nemzet -- were pressured into silence.

It has only been two days since Orban's re-election, and already independent media receives a crushing blow. Hungarians wonder who the next victim will be. NGOs will most probably be targeted first. But then who? Another media organization? The judiciary? The "two thousand enemies" of the government? The list is long.

media, illiberalism, politics

Details from the story:

  • Magyar Nemzet was founded in 1938. 
  • On April 11, it announced the end of its operations with an online press release. Meanwhile, there has been news of several businessman wanting to buy Magyar Nemzet.
  • Lánchíd Rádió, another organization in Simicska's portfolio, will also cease its operations.
  • One of the potential buyers is Péter Ungár. He is the son of Mária Schmidt, a close ally of Viktor Orbán. On the other hand, Ungár belongs to an opposition party, LMP.
  • Hír TV, a channel owned by Simicska, will continue to operate, but employees will be laid off due to budget cuts.
  • Népszabadság, one of the oldest newspapers was indirectly shut down by the government in 2016 october.
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