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Index.hu’s editorial board resigns

July 27th, 2020

As most staff members at Index resign, a liberal commentator accuses the government of trying to silence its most important critic. A pro-government news site, on the other hand, claims that Ferenc Gyurcsány has taken over Index.

On Friday, most of the staff of Index.hu announced their resignation after editor-in-chief Szabolcs Dull was fired by the management board of the media company. Dull was fired, Laszlo Bodolai wrote in a statement, for leaking information on a restructuring plan for Index, proposed by the board to make it profitable. On Friday, the Momentum party called a demonstration and thousands of people marched through Budapest from the Index offices to the Prime Minister’s former  Carmelite monastery on Castle Hill to protest.

444’s Péter Uj contends that the government wants to silence Index, one of its most influential critics. The liberal pundit believes that the pro-government owners want to control and transform Index into a less critical news site. Uj recalls that the Left’s leading daily, Népszabadság was closed in 2016, after it was taken over by the same government-friendly investor, who took over the advertising wing of Index in April. He thinks that Index lost the battle it waged for ten years for freedom of expression and independent reporting, and accuses the government of uprooting the free press. Uj predicts that Index will soon become another media outlet trumpeting government propaganda. In an aside, he notes that according to different opinion polls, 3 to 4 million Hungarians do not trust the government media. The main question now is if and how ‘islands of independent media outlets’ can be maintained.

Origo.hu describes the fight over Index as an intra-Left competition. The pro-government site suspects that Index was taken over by ‘Ferenc Gyurcsány’s people’ from those it calls ‘the New Left’, namely the Momentum party. Origo finds it telling that the demonstration in defense of Index was called by Momentum (although it was also joined by DK supporters). In 2011, Origo adds, a group of Index journalists lead by Péter Uj, who were affiliated with the MSZP, left Index, which has more recently ‘become a mouthpiece’ of the rising Momentum movement. The pro-government site claims that Index ran huge operational losses and was on the brink of insolvency. Origo also claims that the board commissioned ‘left-wing journalists’ with the restructuring,  and therefore dismisses all charges of government interference as completely baseless.

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