Szabolcs Dull, the editor-in-chief of Hungary’s most popular news website Index.hu, was dismissed on Wednesday after he had announced that the portal’s independence was in danger.
In a letter, László Bodolai, head of the Foundation for Hungarian Progress (Magyar Fejlődésért Alapítvány), which owns Index, stated that the Board of Directors of Index.hu Inc. considered the recent events, and on Wednesday he initiated Szabolcs Dull’s termination of employment.
Bodolai has also announced that he had invited board member Pál Szombathy to be the CEO of Index, who has accepted the offer. Also, lawyer and journalist András Sztankóczy joined the director’s board.
Bodolai continues the letter by stating that “the political independence of Index has not been and is not in jeopardy, the economic impact of the uncertainty generated by an internal concern is currently the biggest threat against the paper.”
“The last few days have shown that the editor-in-chief was unable to stop or control the internal processes that adversely affected the market situation, so I decided to dismiss him,” Bodolai explained.
The next editor-in-chief will be decided by the board at a later time.
In his statement published on Index, Dull wrote the following of his dismissal:
“It was not without reason that Index‘s staff felt in danger, and it was not without reason that I decided to move our independence barometer. All this time I had the values that Index‘s staff holds before my eyes, as was my duty as editor-in-chief. What transpired in the past few weeks had convinced me even more that Hungary needs a news site where the content and who is on staff are not determined by stealthy external powers, a news source where the only goal is to inform readers, where there is no unknowable higher political or economical intent in the background. Where our work is free and independent.”
The scandal surrounding Index began a month ago when Szabolcs Dull announced that the portal’s editorial independence was in danger. The decision came after Miklós Vaszily, a media manager close to the government, had purchased a 50% stake in Indamedia Group, which controls the revenue streams and advertising of the site. Following this, a new restructuring plan was put on the table, suggesting some of the portal’s content should be outsourced to external providers. Although the plan was not implemented, the staff felt that all this was nothing more than an attempt from pro-government circles to influence the editorial policy and content of the online media outlet.
“Index is under such external pressure that could spell out the end of our editorial staff as we know it,” the former editor-in-chief said in his announcement at the time.
However, Bodolai claimed that although a concept was indeed planned, it was never accepted by the board.
A few days after the story hit the news, András Pusztay, the CEO of Index, resigned. He was followed by Zsolt Ződi, a good friend of Bodolai, who also stepped down only a week later after he “familiarized” himself with the financial situation of the company. In the meantime, Szabolcs Dull was removed from the director’s board.
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