17 Aug 2020 Lvl. 2
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Alert created on: 31 Jul 2020 n° 90/2020 Hungary

Dismissal of Index News Website Editor further Constricts Media Independence

Source of threatUnknown
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner AEJ Article 19 ECPMF EFJ/IFJ
Partner AEJ Article 19 ECPMF EFJ/IFJ
On 22 July 2020, Szabolcs Dull the editor-in-chief of Index news website, Hungary’s leading source of independent news and political comment, was dismissed from his post, one month after publicly warning that its status as a free media outlet was “in danger” from political growing interference. On 24 July, more than 70 other journalists and staff of Index resigned together in protest.

In a joint statement they said the conditions for Index’s independent operations were no longer in place. They called the firing of their editor “clear interference” and an overt attempt to apply pressure. Earlier this year a pro-government businessman acquired significant control over Index’s funding. Laszlo Bodalai, the president of the board of the website’s owners, denied that Index’s political independence was at risk and referred to a decline in advertising revenues as a reason for the dismissal.

European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova reacted to the removal of Szabolcs Dull by declaring that she had “big concerns” and expressing her solidarity with the staff of Index who she said had worked under “very difficult conditions”.

In late 2018 a Media Pluralism Monitor report published by the European Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom assessed the risk related to the lack of political independence of media in Hungary, in terms of the state regulation of resources and support to the media sector, as having an acute high-risk score of 97%. The risk to editorial autonomy of the country's media was also assessed with a high risk score of 88%.
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