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Sale of Hungary's largest opposition paper shows government influence over media

A newsstand including Saturday papers with Nepszabadsag daily is pictured in Budapest, 8 October 2016
A newsstand including Saturday papers with Nepszabadsag daily is pictured in Budapest, 8 October 2016

AP Photo/Andras Nagy,file

This statement was originally published on freedomhouse.org on 25 October 2016.

In response to a businessman close to Hungary's prime minister purchasing the country's most prominent opposition newspaper company, Freedom House issued the following statement:

"The suspension and sale of Nepszabadsag show the government's growing influence over Hungary's media," said Robert Herman, vice president for international programs. "Hungary's government uses ownership as a political tool to silence critical coverage. The EU and the United States should forcefully condemn this attack on the press."

Background

On October 25, Nepszabadsag – Hungary's main opposition daily – was sold to Opimus Press, a company linked to Lorinc Meszaros, a close confidante of Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the mayor of Felcsut, the prime minister's home town. The sale took place two weeks after its previous owner unexpectedly suspended publication, blocked its journalists' access to their emails and offices, and pulled the paper's online edition. As part of the acquisition, Opimus Press also purchased 12 smaller regional papers.

Hungary is rated Free in Freedom in the World 2016, Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2016, Free in Freedom on the Net 2015, and receives a democracy score of 3.29 on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 as the worst possible score, in Nations in Transit 2016.

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