Hungary's Last Daily Non-State Influenced Newspaper Closes

Originally published on April 12, 2018 11:42 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

This past weekend, Hungary re-elected Prime Minister Viktor Orban. He's a right-wing populist who ran on a largely anti-migrant, anti-refugee platform. His party took more than two-thirds of the seats in parliament. One of the reasons that was possible was that the government controls much of the media and political coverage in Hungary. And that just became even more the case. Yesterday, the daily newspaper Magyar Nemzet was shut down. It was the last non-state-influenced daily newspaper left in the country.

Flora Garamvolgyi is a journalist there. She wrote about foreign affairs for the paper until yesterday. And she joins us now via Skype from Budapest. Welcome, Flora.

FLORA GARAMVOLGYI: Hello. Thank you for having me.

KELLY: How did you find out that the newspaper was closing?

GARAMVOLGYI: We got an email on Monday evening that we have an important meeting with the editor-in-chief. So the next day, we went in, and he told us right away that the newspaper is closing down. And on Tuesday, we were still working, so the last Magyar Nemzet was published on Wednesday.

KELLY: Did you buy a copy to keep?

GARAMVOLGYI: Of course, many copies.

KELLY: Yeah. What reason did they give you for the newspaper shutting down?

GARAMVOLGYI: Because of financial issues. The government controls most of the media in Hungary, and those media companies, of course, they have government advertisements. So it was a hard situation for us because we weren't doing those advertising campaigns.

KELLY: You weren't letting the government advertise in your newspaper.

GARAMVOLGYI: No, not at all, not at all, no.

KELLY: You're describing a link here. A lot of media organizations in Hungary survive financially because they're accepting government advertising. Your newspaper did not. So, yes, there were financial reasons for it shutting, but you're saying it was certainly not disconnected from what's going on in Hungarian politics.

GARAMVOLGYI: Yes, yes.

KELLY: So for Americans trying to make sense of Magyar Nemzet, your paper, where it would have been in the media landscape, it's a big daily newspaper. You can read it anywhere in Hungary. It's distributed throughout the country...

GARAMVOLGYI: Yes, anywhere in Hungary, yes.

KELLY: ...Until yesterday. And does the reporting have any particular slant at all?

GARAMVOLGYI: It was like really objective. We were rather fortunate that we had free rein as to what to publish as long as it could be supported by evidence.

KELLY: If I'm a Hungarian and I want to read opposing viewpoints, I want to read independent reporting, where can I go now?

GARAMVOLGYI: You could read online newspapers. There are, like, three or four left. There are still two TV stations left and one newspaper, which is not a daily paper. It's something like Time.

KELLY: Like Time Magazine.

GARAMVOLGYI: Yes.

KELLY: I wonder what goes through your head as you watch what is happening in your country and the media becomes more and more controlled by the government. Are you concerned about the end of an independent media in your country?

GARAMVOLGYI: Yes because what happened is obviously - it's a personal tragedy because I lost my job. But this whole government-controlled media situation is a really big issue. People have been made to consume racist, xenophobic, anti-immigration propaganda all over the news, like, daily. So it's a much bigger issue than just, like, a newspaper shutting down.

KELLY: What do you want Americans to know about what is happening in Hungary?

GARAMVOLGYI: That the free press is slowly dying here, and it's a devastating situation for us.

KELLY: That's Hungarian journalist Flora Garamvolgyi talking about her newspaper, the daily Magyar Nemzet, which printed its last copy yesterday. Thank you so much for taking the time.

GARAMVOLGYI: Thank you for having me.

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