Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban has decreed that the creation of a vast pro-government media conglomerate cannot be challenged by competition authorities, fueling fresh fears for the country’s press freedom and rule of law.
Last week, the owners of some 480 newspapers, magazines, broadcasters, and websites announced they were “donating” them to the Central European Press and Media Foundation, which is run by close Orban ally Gabor Liszkay and includes current and former members of the ruling Fidesz party on its board.
On Wednesday, December 5, Mr Orban signed a decree to shield the foundation from Hungary’s media and competition watchdogs, by declaring the merger to be an event of “national strategic importance” that serves “the public interest of saving print media.”
Gabor Polyak, analyst at Hungarian media think tank Mertek, said competition was being distorted by the conglomerate.
“The fact the government opted for this political solution is an open admission this would not have passed the provisions of either the media law or the competition law,” he said. “This will create a scale of media concentration unthinkable in the Western world.”
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