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Forbes Rich List Issue Recalled Due to ‘Hell Energy’ Complaint

Ábrahám Vass 2020.01.30.

Following Hell Energy’s owners objection of their inclusion and the publication of their name on Hungarian Forbes’s list of the 50 richest Hungarians, the Budapest-Capital Regional Court decided to recall the latest edition of the magazine. According to the paper’s editor-in-chief, this violates freedom of press and promises that they will stand up for their rights.

In fact, one of the owners of the company (whose names can be found on the Interior Ministry’s official and public register), made it to the list, ranked 26th with an estimated fortune of HUF 48.5 billion (EUR 143 million). In the company’s view, Forbes has violated their privacy rights in line with the GDPR [the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, introduced in May 2018] regulations.

In the provisional measure, which is part of the legal procedure, the Court ruled to recall the current issue of Forbes Magazine from the newsstands, while the owner’s name had to be deleted in the online version too.

“The owner of Hell Energy” Image: screenshot/forbes.hu

According to the editor-in-chief of Forbes Hungary, Márton Galambos, “if this extreme interpretation of the GDPR  is generalized, business journalism will become impossible in Hungary. At the same time, it makes possible for business figures and entrepreneurs to only contribute to the publication of those articles that make them look good. This would eventually result in only PR articles being published, instead of real journalism.”

Galambos also insists that despite the recall, they still won’t seek permission from any of the subjects to record their names. “We will defend our truth and our journalistic principles in court.” In addition, in a message posted to his Facebook page, he also criticized Hell Energy’s owners, who “think it’s OK to make billions off Hungarians and pocket state subsidies, but it’s not OK for their customers to know who they are.”

The case probably already got more spotlight than it would have without the forced recall, as The New York Times and The Washington Post also covered the story.

Hell Energy is one of Hungary’s biggest energy drink manufacturers and also leads the market in eight other countries. The company has been on the receiving end of billions of state subsidies, for example for the establishment of a new production line, for its aluminium beverage can factory, and for the foundation of an expensive, elite school.

featured image: works at Hell Energy’s factory in Szikszó; via MTI/Vajda János