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Farewell to the independent media

How is it possible to maintain the few remaining critical outlets that are independent from the government in Hungary? What type of compromises should be made to this end? And where is the end of the acceptable compromises, from where the unprincipled deal starts? – Zoltán Gál J., departing editor-in-cjief of the Vasárnapi Hírek and former politician of the MSZP wrote his last publication about these questions in the publication.

According to Gál J., Hungary is going back to the party press period, the advertising market has become a distributive machine, "from where they distribute to someone, who has the support of the government in exchange for semblance".
"It is also a question whether it is worth to lend them a helping hand. Answering these questions is only possible by conviction and without regard for a position".
He also wrote that as the advertising market has been under the control of the government for quite a while, it is not a surprise that the income of Vasárnapi Hírek has been negligible. This must change in order for the publication to remain in business.
"The government can take advantage of this situation to increase its influence and preserve the status quo. The question is will the government find partners on the other side who are eager enough to protect their positions, to achieve this?"
Gál J. said that there are some for whom the politics of compromise give a sense of stability, and some will not risk a chief editorial position", but for him this is not the case.
The former editor-in-chief mentioned his political past as one of the reasons for leaving Vasárnapi Hírek after 7 years. Regarding László Puch, who bought Népszava and Vasárnapi Hírek, Gál J. said that different people talk about him in different ways, but no one questioned his left-wing commitment. He said that the co-workers of the editorial office of Vasárnapi Hírek are the guarantee that the publication will preserve its character and sharp oppositional voice".
Recently, Átlátszó wrote that it could be an acceptable base of negotiations from different sides that Népszava will publish opinions and analysis rather than fact-finding articles. Parallel with this, 444 wrote in an article last week that government advertisements will likely start to appear in Népszava, as its application in January 2017 was accepted by the Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister.

In his last editorial in Varásnapi Hírek, Zoltán J. Gál writes that he has been removed from his job because he would refuse to dampen the paper's tone in order to get more ads from the government and enterprises under its influence. He quotes his last week's editorial where he wrote that socialist leaders were inclined to strike immoral deals with the government on account of their lack of clear ideas and of the huge debt their party has accumulated over the past few years. He adds that the offshore company behind Népszava and Vasárnapi Hírek is owned by left-wing people, but they need commercial revenues to keep the two left-wing newspapers afloat. (Népszava and Vasárnapi Hírek will merge this year while keeping both brands alive, with Vasárnapi Hírek becoming Népszava's Sunday edition. The original candidate for editor in chief was Gál himself, but last week the owners finally opted for Népszava editor Péter Németh instead. Gál served for two years as PM Ferenc Gyurcsány's press secretary and as an MSZP MP from 2006 to 2010.) Without mentioning Péter Németh by name, Gál writes that his successor values being editor in chief more than fighting for radical change. Nevertheless, he encourages his readers to remain faithful to the two newspapers, whose journalists will continue to stand up for their principles against anyone who might try to prevent them from acting as a check on the government.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 February 2017 20:04

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