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AEJ deplores the closure of Hungarian newspaper Magyar Nemzet: another blow to media pluralism

Statement by the AEJ Hungarian Section on 19 April 2018:

 

A little more than 4 months before its 80th birthday the national political daily Magyar Nemzet has ceased its publication. It is a big loss for Hungarian media users and a severe blow to media pluralism, decreasing the number of critical and professional independent media. The board of the Hungarian Section of the AEJ is deeply concerned about these harmful processes, because a strong and independent media system is the pillar of democracy. After the shutting down of political daily Nepszabadsag and the buying up of other media titles by oligarchs close to the government, the closing down of Magyar Nemzet signals a further slide in the wrong direction for Hungary’s beleaguered media.  

It survived the Nazi times and the war, it survived the communist era of Rakosi and Kadar, it even survived the very stormy privatisation process in 1989-1991, but the legendary daily Magyar Nemzet founded in 1938 now now longer exists. The owner, businessman Lajos Simicska, once a close friend of prime minister Viktor Orban but since February 2015 an arch enemy, announced on 11 April that the daily newspaper’s publication would end.

The highly prestigious newspaper was founded by the famous historian professor Sandor Petho, and with many outstanding journalists Magyar Nemzet followed a not always hidden anti-Nazi line during the war. The daily played an important role in the intellectual and cultural preparation for the uprising of 1956 and the transition to democracy in 1989-90.

Simicska became the owner in 2000, when the daily had almost lost its liberal identity and was a strong supporter of  Mr. Orban and his ruling Fidesz party. But after the rupture between Orban and his friend Simicska the paper became a strong opponent of Fidesz, had published masterpieces of investigating journalism about different corruption affairs of the Fidesz government. Not surprisingly the environment turned out to be negative for the daily: state advertising was removed, private advertisers were dissuaded from advertising in the newspaper, and official or semi-official subscribers were forced to give up Magyar Nemzet. According to reliable sources the amount of its debt surpassed 700 million HUF (2 million €) per year.