The discontinuation of Népszabadság was not a rational economic decision, but the latest outrage on the part of a progressively more authoritarian, primitive and vengeful power. It was a serious blow against a Hungarian free press that is being backed into an increasingly narrow corner.
Translation of Márton Bede’s op-ed piece “A dreadful, primitive vengeful power discontinued Népszabadság” of October 8, 2016 appearing in 444.hu.
That Népszabadság struggled with serious economic and existential problems like all the world’s printed papers is not a question. Nor is it a question that no matter what problems exist at an economic entity, if the owner decides to close it, it does not do so the way it has with Népszabadság: in the manner of a putsch, tricking its employees, locking them out of their offices and correspondences. And of course in a civilized country they do not abuse a newspaper’s readers in this way.
We do not know who led this shameful putsch. The structure of the Hungarian economy and especially Hungarian media is such that it is not possible to know who is pulling the strings.
This is characteristic of Hungary’s strawman economy. On paper the owner of Népszabadság is a company called Mediaworks, behind which stands a mysterious Austrian businessman named Heinrich Pecina. As for who is controlling him, various different theories have emerged over the years, all of which point in the same direction: Pecina takes his orders from the one who pays the most.
In Hungary today it is not a question who can pay the most. It is the rather narrow political-economic-intellectual circle led by Viktor Orbán exercising total political, economic and intellectual control over all but a few small parts of Hungary. There can be no doubt that the snippy elimination of Népszabadság took place at the command of this circle.
If an economic decision had taken place, then at least Népszabadság’s internet portal, nol.hu, would have survived. It would not have been the first political daily in the last years to give up print-based news. That it did not take place this way is practically proof that economic rationality was not the goal here, but rather silencing a newspaper which in recent weeks exposed two matters highly embarrassing to the government. Antal Rogán’s family helicopter tour and the public money received by György Matolcsy’s lover are both stories that are most painful for Fidesz. So effectively did they direct attention to the corruption that is strangling Hungary that not even an anti-migrant hate campaign costing billions could distract the public’s attention from it. Where rational arguments have run out and the propaganda is not working, violence is what is left.
In December 2015 Hungary’s cynical, lying prime minister said that
“The freedom of thought, speech, and press in Hungary is more varied, wider and deeper than to the west of us.”