“Economic pressure should not turn into political pressure” warns the Vice President of the European Commission Věra Jourová, who in an open letter expresses support and solidarity with Hungary’s leading online news outlet, Index.
In her article titled: ‘Solidarity with Index journalists,’ published both in English and Hungarian (which you can read in its entirety here), the EC Vice-chair for Values and Transparency writes that she has “been following the situation of Index with concern” and expresses solidarity with the staff “who has been working under very difficult conditions.”
“What you are doing, the values you are fighting for, media freedom and pluralism, are essential for democracy, and for Europe,” she argues, insisting that “democracy cannot work without free and independent media.”
Meanwhile, Zsolt Erdélyi, one of the alleged advisors of Indamedia (the company that Index's existence depends on economically), who also previously advised restructuring, urged Index to replace editor-in-chief Szabolcs Dull (who contradicted their plans) and pick another one who 'doesn't s**t his pants from outsider advisors.' Liberal 444.hu notes that Erdélyi is the first one within the company to openly demand the editor-in-chief's replacement.
Two weeks ago, Index announced that its editorial independence was in danger. The liberal-leaning, government-critical site expressed the fear that its owners – and through them, Fidesz circles – aim to extend influence over the online media group.
Long story short, the website is owned by a foundation, while the company that provides ads to it is partly owned by a pro-government media manager. It was the outside advisors’ suggestion to outsource some non-politically essential content to external providers who would employ the same staff who produce that content at present. Recent experiences, for example with left-wing daily Népszabadság, led many to think that in one way or another the government wants to extend its influence over Hungary’s most-read online news portal.
featured image via MTI/EPA/Laurent Dubrule