HVG announced yesterday that its board of directors had accepted the resignation of Gabor Gavra, the editor-in-chief of its on-line version (pictured here in a recent interview on ATV’s Egyenes Beszed).
The news of Gavra’s resignation comes shortly after governing party Fidesz announced it was suing HVG for libel for an article published on its news portal last Friday entitled “Here’s proof that Fidesz cheated”. The amateur video to which the article referred was later proven to be a fake. The video purports to show Fidesz political operatives discussing providing money and firewood to voters in by-elections held in Baja on September 22nd and October 13th.
Gavra admitted on Sunday to making a “serious professional mistake” by giving the article a “title and lead which the recording itself does not support”.
On Tuesday police confirmed that the video was made on October 15th two days after the election. Pro-government newspapers reported on Monday that Socialist politician Gyorgy Kiraly had ordered the video from a favor seeker. However, in a statement published Tuesday night Mr. Kiraly denied any involvement with the production of the video but acknowledged supplying the video to the Socialist Party.
Last night Politics Can Be Different (LMP) co-Chairman András Schiffer praised Gavra’s work at the head of Hungary’s most important on-line newspaper:
“Every one owes Gavra thanks and recognition who thinks it important that independent public disclosure exist outside of the “national” and “democratic” press in this country. He apologized and resigned over the scandal caused by the fraudulent video even though had it not been for the website he edited the president would still be called Pal Schmitt. It’s rather strange that those opposition politicians couldn’t find it in themselves to apologize who immediately jumped on the video, even though a few more productions like this and the name of the prime minister for many years to come will be Viktor Orban.”
It was HVG.hu that first broke the story in 2011 that much of President Pal Schmitt’s doctoral thesis had been plagiarized that eventually forced him to resign. At that time Gavra gave numerous interviews defending HVG’s decision to run the article.
A lesser person might have pointed the finger of blame at those who supplied HVG with the fake video. By resigning Gavra has demonstrated integrity much lacking in Hungary’s so-called leaders. The Budapest Beacon wishes Gavra good luck with his future endeavors.
Like most print news magazines HVG has struggled for years with declining readership and falling advertising revenue, both as a result of a weak economy and that magazine’s willingness to write critically of the current government. If and when that publication is forced to close its doors or becomes the next media outlet to be bought up by one Fidesz oligarch or another, it will be a major setback to what is left of Hungary’s free and independent press.