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AEJ Hungarian Section protests against the drastic erosion of media pluralism

Statement by the AEJ Hungarian Section, 18 September 2017

Protest against limitation of media pluralism

According to the latest information the Hungarian media company called Lapcom Zrt. has been bought by the Avalue Investment Kft, which is owned by Andy Vajna, chief government officer of Hungarian film industry and the owner of TV2, different radio stations and many casinos.

The deal – if it is finally agreed by the Media Council – means that beside the nationwide tabloid called Bors two regional quality newspapers (Kisalföld és Délmagyarország) will also be owned by Andy Vajna, a close associate of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. An important process is being finalized by this deal: by now all Hungary’s 19 regional newspapers are or will be owned by businessmen close to Orban, either by the above-mentioned Andy Vajna, or by Lőrinc Mészáros, a billionaire who is known as a friend of the PM, or by the Austrian businessman Heinrich Pecina, who last year paved the way towards the abolition of the daily Népszabadság.

Together with the public service television and radio channels, the private TV2, newsportals origo.hu and 888.hu, the pro-government daily Magyar Idők (Hungarian Times), two economic-political weeklies (Világgazdaság and Figyelő), some tabloid newspapaers (Lokál, Ripost) and some radio channels, this pro-government tide in the media is being watched with growing concern by the board of the Hungarian Section of the AEJ. Although we still have oppositional platforms in all branches of the media, eight months before the general elections the space for media pluralism is step by step limited by very sophisticated methods of the government.

The strong centralisation efforts of crony capitalist politics of the present Hungarian Government is reflected in the world of the media, resulting in more and more government influence over a growing part of the media. We are concerned, we call for a stop to this process, and we protest against the limitation of pluralism of media ownership which is one of the most important features in the media landscape of free societies.

Budapest, September 2017, AEJ Hungarian Section