Hungary’s Orban took over all regional media: IPI report
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has "taken control" of all regional media in the country just six months before Hungary’s general elections, the International Press Institute (IPI) stated in a report on Oct. 2.
“Orban’s government has finished buying up, through various cronies and government-friendly businessmen, all of Hungary’s regional newspapers,” read a report by an IPI correspondent on the press body’s official website.
“Since taking power in 2010, Orban has slowly brought most Hungarian media outlets under his influence and the takeover of regional newspapers is a very important step in his long-term quest to keep dissenting voices very, very quiet,” it read.
“These newspapers offer a cheap and efficient channel for broadcasting the government’s message to a large audience,” it said quoting Attila Batorfy, a researcher at Central European University’s Center for Media, Data and Society, as saying.
Hungary’s four national newspapers—two of which are directly controlled by Orban’s political party, Fidesz—are distributed across the country, but sell only a tiny number of copies outside Budapest, the report also said.
“For many people outside of the capital, the regional paper is the only one they read,” Dániel Szalay, a journalist covering media affairs for the news website 24.hu, said.
Separately, the country’s main leftist party was rocked on Oct. 2 when its challenger Orban quit over his failure to build a pact with other opposition parties.
“I have resigned as the Socialist Party’s prime ministerial candidate,” Laszlo Botka said in a letter sent to media.
Since his candidacy was launched last December, the 44-year-old, a popular mayor of the southern city of Szeged, had urged other centrist and leftist parties to form a broad anti-Orban front ahead of the next elections, due to be held by next April.
But Botka admitted his effort had “failed” and blasted the other opposition parties for their reluctance to cooperate, calling it a “historic crime.”
“The democratic opposition parties do not want to win in 2018 ... Their goal is just to win some seats on the benches of the Orban regime’s parliament,” he said.
Botka also accused Orban’s right-wing Fidesz of infiltrating the opposition parties including his own in order to block efforts to form alliances.
“Opposition unity is what most threatens [their] power,” he said.
New election rules introduced in 2011, a year after Orban came to power, mean most seats in Hungary’s 199-seat assembly are won on a winner-takes-all system.
Orban’s critics say the changes were designed to favor Fidesz and punish the fragmented opposition.