Gergo Saling, the editor-in-chief of Origo.hu, a popular Hungarian news site, was fired Monday shortly after the site published a series of critical reports about the Hungarian government, the last of which was about State Secretary Janos Lazar and his multimillion travel expenses. Critics are accusing the Hungarian government of taking advantage of its cushy relationship with Deutsche Telekom—the huge telecommunications corporation that owns, through a chain of subsidiaries, Origo.hu—to silence news organizations that criticize the government.
Deutsche Telekom, which also owns two-thirds of T-Mobile, just signed a lucrative, billion-dollar broadband deal with the Hungarian government in February.
Saling told the Agence France-Presse that his removal from Origo was "by mutual consent," but could only explain that his termination was "not my initiative." Around 1,000 people, many of them journalists, marched from the Origo offices to the Hungarian parliament in protest.
In a show of support of Saling and as a refusal to kowtow to government pressure, a large number of Origo's staff quit. Peter Gyorgy, Origo's founder and an editorial board member, also resigned in protest Wednesday. Even still, Origo appears to be undaunted by the firings and exodus of staff—yesterday they published a new article titled, "Deutsche Telekom, Hungarian government collude to silence independent media." According to Budapest Beacon, Origo has been under government pressure to suppress critical reports for more than a year.
But it's not just Origo: the Hungarian government has proposed a new tax on media companies' advertising revenue, to the tune of what the Guardian says is "a maximum rate of 40% on revenues above about £50m." Further evidence, the independent press in Hungary say, of the government and prime minister Viktor Orban trying to control or squeeze out dissenting opinions. From the Guardian:
Media analyst Agnes Urban said the tax could increase government influence on Hungary's commercial TV market. She believes the government's aim is to improve TV2's position and weaken that of its successful competitor, RTL.
If the proposal becomes law, it is estimated that RTL's tax bill would reach £12m, nine times its 2013 profits.
The Hungarian Advertising Association said it was shocked by the tax, pointing out that much of Hungary's media operates either at a loss or with small profits.
[Image via AP]