The international Association of European Journalists (AEJ) joins the Hungarian journalists unions HPU and MUOSZ in calling on the national authorities to put a stop to the recently announced formation of a huge media conglomerate that threatens to end media pluralism in Hungary. The AEJ is speaking out against this deeply undemocratic development following its annual Congress and General Assembly in western Greece last weekend, where the deteriorating state of media freedom, and the erosion of safeguards to protect it in Hungary and elsewhere in Europe was debated and strongly condemned. The Association hereby aligns itself with the public position of the European and International Federations of Journalists (EFJ-IFJ). We also remind the Hungarian government that all EU member states have the positive obligation to ensure media pluralism and an environment in which citizens can participate in public debate and express ideas and opinions without fear. With the EFJ and IFJ we call on the European Commission, as guardian of the treaties, to treat attempts by Hungary to threaten media freedom and pluralism as a serious and systemic abuse of power.
The new right-wing media conglomerate is to be operated through a so-called Central European Press and Media Foundation, and it will include cable news channels, online news portals, tabloid and sports newspapers and all the counrtry’s provincial newspapers, some national daily newspapers, several radio stations and numerous magazines. The owners of a majority of Hungary’s pro-government media outlets announced last week that they would be committing their titles to the foundation. The move is widely seen as sounding the death knell for media independence, and as an attempt to consolidate the growing stranglehold that pro-government media have created in Hungary under the leadership of prime minister Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz party.
According to media reports, most of the publications included were acquired or founded by allies of Prime Minister Viktor Orban over recent years. Some were transformed from relatively independent outlets into mouthpieces of the government, with copious state and government advertising. The Foundation’s media operations will be led by Gabor Liszkay, a newspaper publisher known for his loyalty to Viktor Orban, and the formal leader of the Foundation is a Fidesz MP who is by profession a lawyer.
The National Federation of Hungarian Journalists (MUOSZ) has sent a letter to the Media Authority and the Competition Office, dominated by pro-government experts, denouncing the hegemonic position of the new conglomerate in every major sector of the media, including national commercial radio and regional newspapers across the country.