A liberal pundit lambasts the MSZP for its role in the fate of the number one left-wing daily, while a centrist analyst rejects the view that what has happened heralds the end of press freedom in Hungary.
On HVG online, András Hont recalls that Népszabadság was sold to Mediaworks, the company that shut it down on Saturday, because the antitrust authority blocked the merger of its owner (Swiss based Ringier) with a German based media multinational (Springer) which owned a large portfolio of regional newspapers. Now Mediaworks has acquired a similar regional portfolio and the authorities did not object.
Meanwhile the Socialist Party, through its foundation, used to own a right of veto in Népszabadság but gave it up because Socialist officials thought they would win the next elections and therefore would be in a position to call the shots. ‘They don’t care for independent reporting either’, Hont fumes. He adds that the owner’s side was represented at the talks by none other than former German Social Democratic Party leader and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. ‘So much for the international left, Hont concludes.
Finally he calls it grotesque that the shutdown of the former Communist Party daily should be considered a ‘dark milestone’ on the road leading to the full atrophy of the free press in Hungary.
On his weblog, Gábor Török castigates those who interpret the end of Népszabadság as the end of press freedom in Hungary. He reminds them that such complaints have been heard throughout the past six years. He agrees with those critics who have no doubts about the political motives behind what happened, but finds it absurd to liken it to the situation in countries where journalists are imprisoned or even killed. Likewise, he deems unfounded those complaints that accuse the ruling forces of re-introducing Communist habits. Before 1990, he recalls, independent thought could only be expressed in clandestine publications, whereas in our days people are free to publish their ideas on the internet and in print. In a dictatorship there is precious little to be done if you are dissatisfied. In a democracy, people can vote the governing forces out out of office. Török concludes. If they want to.