Hungarian Central Bank fines newspaper for “influencing the market in a prohibited manner”

November 25, 2013

MNB

It seems the all-powerful National Media and News Authority (NMHH) is not the only government body Hungarian media outlets need fear.

The Hungarian Central Bank (pictured above) announced today that it had fined Hungarian economics daily Napi Gazdaság and its online sister publication napi.hu HUF 3 million (USD 14,000) each earlier this month for publishing an article that ” influenced the market in a prohibited manner”.

The 15 October article entitled  “Norvégia is figyelheti a Hernádi-ügyet” (Norway may also be watching the Hernádi matter”) speculated that the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund might be prompted to sell some or all of its shares in national oil company Mol Nyrt. in the wake of allegations that Mol Chairman and CEO, Zsolt Hernadi, may have been complicit in the payment of a large bribe to former Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader.

Croatia issued an international arrest warrant for Hernadi in September of this year after he failed to answer a summons.

The article, which was picked up by international online financial publication bloomberg.com despite being purely speculative in nature, caused Mol stock to lose 6 per cent of its value over the course of a single day.  Mol formally objected to the article and the online version was subsequently removed. A follow up article covered the fall-out from the previous article as well as Mol’s objections.

On 1 October of this year the Hungarian Central Bank took over the functions of the previously independent Financial Organizations State Supervisory Authority (PSZÁF).

The decision comes in the wake of renewed criticism of the Hungarian media law which critics argue forces journalists and editors to practice self-censorship.

Having punished a newspaper for “influencing the market in a prohibited manner”, one wonders whether the Hungarian Central Bank intends to punish government officials for irresponsible pronouncements that influence the exchange rate or the cost of borrowing to Hungary.

Napi Gazdasag was recently purchased by the Fidesz-controlled Szazadveg Group.  Its online version, Napi.hu, continues to be published by Közép-európai Média és Kiadó Zrt.

Referenced in this article:

Piacbefolyásolás miatt újságokat büntetett az MNB, origo.hu, 25 November 2013