Watch your mouth!


Corporate capture of the media by the state is not just an eastern European speciality, nor does it take place in an economic vacuum. The 31st European Meeting of Cultural Journals will be focusing on how political interference and market pressure are threatening independent publishing in Europe today.

The collapse of independent Hungarian news site in July, following the politically motivated sacking of its editor-in-chief and resignation of its entire staff, focused attention on a development underway in the country for a decade. Since returning to power with a super-majority, the Orbán government has become a byword for a particular form of assault on free speech: a combination of restrictive media laws masquerading as guarantees of unbiased reporting, and corporate capture of the media by clients of the regime.

It may have been coincidental that the Index incident came immediately after Orbán had boasted that, by securing the removal of rule of law conditions on the massive subsidies granted to member states as part of the EU Recovery Fund, he had scored a victory for Hungary and the other Visegrád states. But the broader connection was undeniable and brought shame upon the conservative parties in Europe that continue to shield Fidesz.

The Hungarian state’s encroachment upon independent media has become something of an export across eastern Europe. But it is not just an eastern speciality, and nor does it take place in an economic vacuum. The profound crisis brought by the 2008 collapse on a media market struggling to adapt to digital publishing has opened the door to anti-democratic interventions. Here, it is not only governments and their corporate allies but also the social media companies that play a role.

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