Orban’s Media Conquest Engulfs Hungarian Conservative Weekly

(Bloomberg) -- Heti Valasz, a bastion of conservative journalism in Hungary, said it was closing operations after entering bankruptcy and the resignation of its editor, a former spokesman of Prime Minister Viktor Orban who had become critical of the populist leader.

"Valasz.hu will cease providing content today," the publisher said in a statement on its website.

The magazine became the latest in a string of publications which have shut down or switched to a pro-government stance in recent years. Emboldened by a third consecutive constitutional majority won at April’s elections, Fidesz and its allies have targeted the last outlets offering alternatives to its anti-immigrant, nationalistic views -- now extending even to some former allies who were found out of line with state rhetoric.

"This is essentially the end to conservative, center-right public discourse in Hungary," Agnes Urban, an analyst at the Mertek research institute in Budapest, said by phone. "What remains is strongly critical left-liberal media and government propaganda. Critical conservative voices have disappeared."

Loyal Media

Orban has said that press remains free in Hungary and he only wants to reduce the dominance of liberal views in media. Many media companies, though not directly attacked by Fidesz, closed or got taken over after being starved of lucrative government advertising, unable to compete with pro-Fidesz outlets and loyal state media.

The second half of 2018 will bring further major changes in the country that will usher in a whole new cultural "era," the premier said in a speech last week, without giving details.

Heti Valasz succumbed amid the collapse of a media empire founded by businessman Lajos Simicska, a former key ally who had a public fallout with the prime minister in 2015. News broadcaster HirTV, which was taken over on Wednesday by people loyal to the prime minister, immediately canceled some popular shows and started airing speeches by Orban instead.

Both Heti Valasz and HirTV, along with the daily newspaper Magyar Nemzet which shut down in April, had become critical of Orban’s policies since the rift between him and Simicska. Several left-wing or independent business publications, including the largest opposition daily, had earlier found a similar fate.

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