Hungary: Suspended reporters help magazine sold by homeless

AP News
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Posted: Oct 20, 2016 11:09 AM
Hungary: Suspended reporters help magazine sold by homeless

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Journalists from an opposition newspaper in Hungary that was suspended earlier this month helped sell a magazine sold by the homeless on Thursday, saying they did so partly because of its symbolic relationship with their own uncertain situation.

Reporters and editors from Nepszabadsag, whose suspension earlier this month raised concerns about media pluralism in Hungary, wrote articles for "Without A Roof" and helped homeless people sell the biweekly — as well as talk with buyers about Hungarian media matters.

"The newsroom has become practically homeless since we moved out of one office and were not let into another one," said Nepszabadsag reporter Csilla Urban, as she sold the magazine at Budapest's Florian Square.

Publishing company Mediaworks announced on Oct. 8 that it was temporarily shutting down Nepszabadsag because of considerable losses. Talks between management and journalists about the future of the publication have been inconclusive.

The nearly 60-year-old paper's sudden disappearance, including blocked access to its valuable online archives, came days after its reporters uncovered several scandals involving suspicions of corruption by government ministers and the head of the National Bank of Hungary, a close ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Orban's Fidesz party said Nepszabadsag's closure was purely a financial decision by its owners.

Dominated by left-leaning publications for years after the 1990 end of communism, Hungary's media landscape has changed considerably since Orban's return to power in 2010. Many publications as well as radio and television stations have come under the control of Orban's inner circle and show an unquestioning pro-government bent.

"The disappearance of Nepszabadsag from the Hungarian media market marks a big turning point in the media war that's happening in Hungary in the last several years," said Amy Brouilette, a research fellow at the Central European University's Center for Media, Data and Society. "It's the largest left-wing daily so it leaves a gap in the opposition point of opinion."

"For Fidesz, the media is the centerpiece of the party's political strategy," Brouilette added. "It has put a great emphasis on controlling public opinion through controlling media."

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Andras Nagy contributed to this report.