The European Council’s decision to water down all references to rule of law conditionality in the next MFF was a mistake. It took only one day after the end of the Summit to see why they gave a free pass to go against European values. Szabolcs Dull, the Editor-in-Chief of the biggest independent news outlet, Index.hu, was fired just by Orbán-loyalists who took control over the company’s financial backing. Today (Friday, 24 July) the majority of people working for Index.hu, over 70 journalists handed in their resignation.
Orbán has been actively destroying the freedom of media. Today the state owned media and over 400 media outlets, including regional newspapers, daily newspapers, websites, radio and television channels, are all under direct control of the government. Among others former leading independent news portal Origo.hu was taken over from the daughter company of Deutsche Telekom in 2014, now it is a website as an open government mouthpiece, with frequent racist and xenophobic content and personal attacks on opposition figures and private individuals who are raising their voice against Orbán. In 2016 the biggest print daily newspaper Népszabadság was shut down over a weekend and journalists had to fight even to get access to their belongings left in the office. Attacks on Index.hu has started years ago, but this week’s actions made it clear that Orbán is ready to make the next moves to destroy the independence of Index.hu.
Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, member of the Greens/EFA Group commented on it:
“Commission President Ursula von der Leyen claimed that the provisions agreed by the European Council will be satisfactory to protect the rule of law in the European Union member states. It is now a chance to show what the Commission is ready to do to protect the freedom of media, which is one of our key values in our democracies. Orbán thinks we gave a green light to him to do whatever he wishes at home. The member states and the Commission need to step up now. If it will take years to start any meaningful process, this will be too late for the remains of the free media in Hungary, as it is already too late for Index.hu”
photo: 444.hu Journalists of Index.hu are announcing their resignation on 24 July