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Friction over Budapest advertising columns

January 7th, 2016

A left-liberal weekly accuses the government of abusing its power, as the Budapest Municipal Council removes advertisement columns owned by Lajos Simicska.

Last year, the Budapest Municipal Council terminated the contract of the Mahir Cityposter company and ordered it to remove its 700 advertising columns from the streets of Budapest by the end of 2015. As the company refused  to comply, on the grounds that it signed a contract with the city for 25 years in 2006. The City Council commissioned a firm to collect them in January. Mahir Cityposter sent security guards to protect them and also put some of the columns back. It also announced that it would seek legal remedy at domestic and European Courts. The company is owned by former Fidesz treasurer Lajos Simicska. In 2014, a conflict erupted between the tycoon and PM Orbán with many ramifications for the Hungarian mass media (see BudaPost 2014 through 2015).

Heti Világgazdaság accuses the government of demonstrating with the conflict  that it can do whatever it wants. The liberal weekly acknowledges that the Budapest Municipal Council’s decision to cancel the contract and remove the columns is in line with the law. Nonetheless, it contends that the decision is intended to punish Lajos Simicska rather than being motivated by aesthetic considerations, as the council claims. If an oligarch, a former ally of PM Orbán can be targeted by the government, no one is safe from abuse by those in power, Heti Világgazdaság muses.

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