Has Mária Schmidt sprung a leak?

May 25, 2017

Last Thursday, Átlátszó.hu reported that Figyelő has lost about 17 percent of subscribers since Fidesz historian and Terror House museum executive director Mária Schmidt acquired the once-reputable business/politics weekly late last year.

Schmidt’s purchase confirmed the fear of many: the weekly has become a Fidesz propaganda outlet. Several of Figyelő’s top journalists quit, think-tank Századvég’s Tamás Lánczi was installed as editor-in-chief, state propaganda advertisements appeared, and the formerly respected publication soon became yet another insufferable Hungarian “media” product.

Now, a week after Átlátszó used leaked information to break the declining readership story, the investigative journalism NGO reports that Figyelő has hired an IT company to find out which employee could be behind the leak.

“What should we tell the two girls was the reason for us signing into their email accounts?” a mid-level manager at Figyelő asked the IT company in an email obtained by Átlátszó.

According to Átlátszó, in an attempt to cover up the evidence of their intrusion into employee email accounts, the IT specialist informed the Figyelő manager that Google would notify the users by email that their accounts had been accessed, and thus these emails should quickly be deleted to avoid catching the attention of the employees.

Átlátszó reports it is likely that Figyelő is undertaking this task in an attempt to check the loyalty of its employees.

The email exchange published by the investigative journalism NGO suggests that Figyelő’s publisher and the IT company are trying to find out whether the subscription-data leak came from a Figyelő email account.  Átlátszó says it received copies of the investigation emails from what is very likely a fake email address.

Átlátszó says subscription numbers are usually available to the public, especially at publishers that allow their publications to be audited. These audits, the NGO writes, are important because they help advertisers and advertising agencies assess the advisability of advertising in a given publication. Such figures help determine the cost to place advertisements — which is unnecessary when a publication is subsidized by the state through state advertisements…

Átlátszó has reached out to the affected employees, asking whether they knew they were being snooped on, and whether they plan on taking legal action.

According to Átlátszó, it is still unknown whether K4A Kft. (Figyelő’s new publisher) had employees sign contracts granting the publisher the right to snoop through their email accounts.