The Parliamentary Assembly and the Venice Commission had examined certain issues related to the functioning of democracy in Hungary with special regard to the Hungarian media law some years ago. However, the Hungarian Government has continued its policy that goes counter to democratic values – such as freedom of the press -, whereby worsening the state of free speech, pluralism of media and the freedom of Hungarian media.
The erosion of media freedom and pluralism has continued by the transformation of the public broadcasting media into a propaganda tool, by the acquisition of a national commercial television channel by a government commissioner of the Orbán government, and most recently by the complete closing of Hungary’s biggest print opposition newspaper from one day to the next – without any prior notice – following its stories about the luxurious lifestyle of the head of the Prime Minister’s cabinet office and about the governor of the National Bank.
The owner of Népszabadság suspended both the print and the online edition of the newspaper. Its reasoning is that the paper was operating at a considerable loss and struggled with dropping circulation in the last 10 years. But civil right groups said the newspaper had been shut down because it had published stories critical of the Orbán government.
This raises serious concerns regarding the functioning of the formerly pluralistic Hungarian media and gives the impression that the government endeavours to silence all those who dare to criticise its members and actions. Therefore the Parliamentary Assembly is compelled to revisit the functioning of media freedom in Hungary as one of the most important pillars of democracy.