We are close to an absolute government

Hungary's post office stops delivering newspapers"The government wants absolute control"

Thousands of copies of the Hungarian weekly newspaper "Magyar Hang" run on the conveyor belts. The printing plant is in Bratislava, the Slovak capital. In Hungary, nobody wanted to print the sheet, says sheet chief Csaba Lukács. Now new adversity threatens. "We were very shocked when we heard that the Hungarian Post would stop delivering daily newspapers from summer onwards. First of all, this does not affect us, we are a weekly newspaper. But what will be the next step? It may well be that the Post will then announces that it no longer sells the weekly papers either. Then we have a problem. We have no alternative yet. "

The Budapest newspaper alone has 5,000 subscribers and is looking for a market niche in the province - for topics such as readers. Another 7,000 copies are sold at the kiosk. Now B, C and D plans are being rolled out in the editorial office, says Lukács. "There is the idea of ​​sending the newspaper by letter, that would cost three or four times as much as it is now. But if necessary, we can post 5,000 envelopes every Thursday. If the post office really stops selling the weekly newspapers, then we can still sell the newspaper at the kiosk or in the supermarket. As a small publisher, we cannot set up our own nationwide distribution.

The Fidesz media holding company could step in

The newspaper distribution is a losing business, so the Hungarian Post justified the withdrawal from the delivery. Miklós Hargitai is editor of the last government critical daily newspaper "Népszava" and chairman of the Hungarian journalists' association MUOSZ. "It's a losing business, regardless of whether the post office or someone else does it," he says. Even if there are very few newspapers, you still have to maintain a distribution network. The deliverers get part of the sales price Distributed 1,000 newspapers to a district, or ten. But publishers cannot stop delivering newspapers to their subscribers. "

(ARD-Vienna / Stephan Ozsváth) Hungary: Off for the club radio
In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán controls a large part of the media landscape; there are only a few media that are independent of the state. Now the club radio has also been switched off to VHF, which is considered to be the last independent radio station.

His newspaper has promised its 17,000 readers that they will continue to receive the paper. The sales gap could be filled in the future by the Fidesz media holding Mediaworks. The company owns the Hungarian regional newspapers, which is why Mediaworks has its own sales department. The company is also making a loss, but the government is lavishly advertising it. It once belonged to a friend of the prime minister and is part of a foundation with nearly 500 media outlets close to the government.

"Critical voices systematically finished off"

The Pécs media lawyer Gábor Polyák considers the exit of the state company Post to be a move by the Orbán government: "Post's exit from newspaper distribution fits very well into the arsenal of the very clever media policy of the ruling party Fidesz Content - radio, TV stations, newspapers, online portals - but also on the environment - from content to sales to the advertising market. Anyone who still plays a role in the newspaper market will be delivered to Mediaworks, believes the founder of the media watchdog Mérték. "

Orbán wants to win the parliamentary elections next year, all three believe. For the independent newspapers, which have hardly any advertising revenues anyway, distribution could become even more expensive in the future, and they would be dependent on a government company, they fear. Green MEP Daniel Freund sees a clear strategy behind it. "The Fidesz government wants absolute control over what citizens read, hear and see. Critical voices are systematically put down." The government regularly claims that it has no influence on the media system.

Journalist: Exit is also a threat

Népszava journalist Hargitai interprets the Hungarian Post's exit from newspaper sales as a threat: "When the Post announced in a press release that it would be withdrawing from sales, it said in a subordinate sentence that the weekly newspapers could also have their turn. There are a large publisher that also operates an online portal, 24.hu, and a high-circulation weekly newspaper. One possible reading is that they want to put pressure on the publisher there. "

(picture alliance / dpa / Peter Kollanyi) Would you rather advertise in state-related media?
Large German car companies would not advertise with them - this is what criticism of the government and independent media in Hungary complain. And how do the companies themselves assess the situation?

This publisher, the Central Media Group, owns the women's magazine "Nök Lapja" - with around 170,000 circulation, a heavyweight on the Hungarian media market. Orban's oligarchs are said to be interested in the publisher.