The editorial leadership of three county newspapers and one city paper belonging to publishing company Pannon Lapok Társasága (PLT) were fired suddenly Friday, reports 24.hu. PLT’s central editorial director was also sacked.
Among those fired are the editorial directors of county dailies Fejér Megyei Hírlap, Zala Megyei Hírlap and Vas Népe, as well as the editor-in-chief of city paper Dunaújvárosi Hírlap. The four publications are owned by PLT, which publishes five dailies and numerous digital publications in Fejér, Zala, Vas and Veszprém counties.
PLT was purchased by the Lőrinc Mészáros-tied Mediaworks Kft. last year, a company which oversaw the October closure of Hungary’s oldest and most widely-read national daily, Népszabadság.
Editors of the PLT newspapers may have come under closer scrutiny when a Christmas interview with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán appeared in the Fejér Megyei Hirlap containing passages that had been altered in a highly unflattering manner. Mediaworks later fired the senior editors of that paper over the scandal.
According to information obtained by 24.hu, one of the county papers will receive a new editor-in-chief appointed by Mediaworks itself, adding to suspicions that new leadership is being installed at the papers in order to influence political content. Mediaworks owns 13 of Hungary’s 18 county daily newspapers, and the company’s majority stakeholder Lőrinc Mészáros, Hungary’s fifth-richest man thanks to an unbroken string of lucrative, largely EU-funded government contracts, owns 194 publications in the country.
PLT released a statement Monday declaring that the firings were the result of an ongoing process of merging PLT with Mediaworks, and that “an independent managing editor position” was being introduced at each of the county papers, resulting in the elimination of the position of editorial director.
According to earlier reports from 24.hu, PLT’s executive director Judit Kázmér had notified staff that PLT will merge with Mediaworks in autumn of this year.