Western Balkans citizens legally resident in EU equal to 14% of region’s population
International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has stripped Belarus of the right to hold the World Championship this year
Alexei Navalny arrested on arrival as he returns home
LONG READ: The oligarch problem
Russia's National Welfare Fund accounts for almost 12% of GDP
Police arresting activists ahead of Saturday’s demonstration in support of Navalny
Biden seeking a five-year extension to START II missile treaty
Russian consumer confidence index drops q/q, y/y in 4Q20
Western Balkans and Ukraine urged to scrutinise coal subsidies
Oligarchs trying to derail Ukraine’s privatisation programme, warns the head of Ukraine’s State Property Fund
Private finance mobilised by development banks up 9% to $175bn in 2019
VISEGRAD BLOG: Central Europe's populists need a new strategy for Biden
OUTLOOK 2021 Lithuania
EBRD says loan to Estonia’s controversial Porto Franco project was never disbursed
Czech MPs pass protectionist food law in violation of EU rules
M&A in Central and Eastern Europe fell 16% in value in 2020, says CMS report
Hungarian vehicle makers hit by supply chain shortage
COVID-19 and Trump’s indifference helped human rights abusers in 2020
OUTLOOK 2021 Poland
OUTLOOK 2021 Slovakia
BRICKS & MORTAR: Rosier future beckons for CEE retailers after year of change and disruption
FDI inflows to CEE down 58% in 1H20 but rebound expected
Albania needs reforms for e-commerce to thrive, says World Bank
BALKAN BLOG: US approach to switch from quick-fix dealmaking to experience and cooperation
Corona-induced slump in global clothing sector dragged down Albania’s 2020 exports
Bosnia's exports in 2020 amounted to BAM10.5bn, trade deficit to BAM6.3bn
Bulgaria's Biodit first company to IPO on new BEAM market
Bulgaria’s government considers gradual easing of COVID-related restrictions
Sofia-based LAUNCHub Ventures holds first close of new fund on €44mn
Spring lockdown caused spike in online transactions in Croatia
ING: Growth in the Balkans: from zero to hero again?
Labour demand down 28% y/y in Croatia in 2020
EBRD investments reach record €11bn in pandemic-struck 2020
OUTLOOK 2021 Moldova
Storming parliaments: New Europe's greatest hits
World Bank revises projection for Moldova’s 2020 GDP decline to 7.2%
Montenegrins say state administration is most corrupt institution
North Macedonia plans to cut personal income tax in IT sector to zero in 2023
Romania government to pursue “ambitious” timetable for justice reforms
OUTLOOK 2021 Romania
OUTLOOK 2021 Slovenia
Slovenia’s opposition files no-confidence motion against Jansa cabinet
Slovenia’s government to release funds to news agency STA after EU pressure
UK Moneyhub picks Slovenia for post-Brexit European base
D’S Damat franchise deals ‘show Turkey’s hard-pressed mall operators becoming their own tenants’
Turkey’s benchmark rate held as concerns over faltering recovery come to fore
Turkish lira breaches HSBC’s stop-loss, Turkey ETF signalling outflows
CAUCASUS BLOG : What can Biden offer the Caucasus and Stans, all but forgotten about by Trump?
Armenia ‘to extend life of its 1970s Metsamor nuclear power plant after 2026’
OUTLOOK 2021 Armenia
COMMENT: Record high debt levels will slow post-coronavirus recovery, threaten some countries' financial stability, says IIF
OUTLOOK 2021 Georgia
Iran’s Khamenei menaces private citizen Trump with image of aircraft shadowing blond golfer
Iran’s technology minister indicted for failing to properly implement internet censorship
No US move to rejoin Iran nuclear deal imminent, say Biden national security nominees
TEHRAN BLOG: Will Biden bet on a quick return to the Iran nuclear deal?
Central Asia vaccination plans underwhelm, but governments look unruffled
Fears of authoritarianism as Kyrgyz populist wins landslide and backing for ‘Khanstitution’
Mongolia's PM quits amid protests over treatment of mother with coronavirus and newborn baby
Mongolia's winter dzud set to be one of most extreme on record says Red Cross
Mongolian coal exports to China paralysed as Beijing demands virus testing of truck drivers
Mongolia fears economic damage as country faces up to its first local transmissions of coronavirus
OUTLOOK 2021 Tajikistan
OUTLOOK 2021 Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan: How the Grinch stole New Year
COMMENT: Uzbekistan is being transformed, but where are the democratic reforms?
Download the pdf version
Around 80 people submitted their resignations from independent news website Index.hu on July 24 after the firing of the editor-in-chief the previous day.
The move is unprecedented in Hungary's media history. The collapse of the country's leading online news site further narrows the number of free media outlets in Hungary where the landscape is dominated by Prime Minister Viktor Orban's allies.
On Friday a rally was organised by opposition parties in support of media freedom. Several thousand people walked from the headquarters of Index to the prime minister’s residence in the Castle District.
However, Hungary’s state news agency's first report of the demonstration came hours after the end of the demonstration.
Index, with 1.8mn unique daily visitors, was Hungary's fifth-largest website and the number one in the news category. Since its foundation in 1999, it has vigorously pursued an independent stance. It was critical of both the right and left wing. Its journalists have received numerous awards over the last 20 years. To its credit, many high ranking politicians from the ruling conservative-nationalist Fidesz also openly admitted that they were avid readers of the news site.
From 2017 the Foundation for Hungarian Progress became the sole owner of the website headed by Laszlo Bodolai, who for a long time worked as a lawyer for the media company. Journalists held the view that this ownership structure would be a guarantee of independence.
The publishing and advertising rights were owned previously by Zoltan Speder. The former chairman of FHB, Hungary’s second-largest listed bank before 2018, Speder has fallen out of favour with the prime minister. Around that time he was forced to sell his stakes in the company, including the sales house Indamedia, to people close to the government.
This was the first warning sign in retrospect, local media wrote, as control over the funding of the portal was transferred to pro-government businessmen.
Concerns about the outlet’s independence deepened after Miklos Vaszily acquired 50% control of Indamedia during the state of emergency in March. An Orban loyalist, he played an integral part in turning the internet news site, Origo, a competitor to Index and other outlets, taking it from being independent to a pro-government mouthpiece during his career.
In late June Index’ then editor-in-chief Szabolcs Dull came out with a shocking editorial about attempts at outside influence.
"The media outlet is under external pressure that could spell the end of our editorial staff as we know it, and we are not sure that we will be able to keep working this way for long,” he wrote. The website's independence gauge, a graphic used since 2018, was turned from "independent" to "in danger".
This came after a controversial business plan was put forward by consultants of Vaszily on the board that would have outsourced content creation, basically spelling the end of independent journalistic work at Index.
Dull was first ousted from the board and a week later from his post as editor-in-chief.
The official explanation for his dismissal was that he had created unfavourable market conditions by leaking the business plan and saying that the news site’s independence was at stake. The disarray led to a drop in revenue as advertisers stayed away, Bodolai said.
Journalists said the firing of Dull was the red line. On Thursday they called on Bodolai to rehire him, which he refused to do. After that some 80 journalists tendered their resignation on Friday in the absence of Bodolai, who on Facebook said he would not have thought that the entire staff would quit. He lashed out at Dull, saying that in Germany his actions (leaking confidential data) would have led to criminal proceedings.
On Friday morning deputy editor Veronika Munk said in an emotional speech editorial staff had campaigned in vain for the return of Dull, and now mostly felt they had no choice but to give up their jobs. For some, it is the second time in only a few years that they have lost their jobs, after working for other media that Hungary’s government has taken over. It is unknown whether the departing editorial staff can remain united and work together, or whether they will individually join other media outlets, or leave the media.
It seems that leaders of the foundation and pro-government owners of the sales house wanted Dull to leave his post quietly. Local media wrote that he is believed to have been offered a substantial sum of money if he were to resign of his own accord, which he rejected.
"I still think the staff’s worries were reasonable and as editor-in-chief I did what my duty and conscience dictated under the circumstances," Dull told Reuters.
The accounts by journalists on social media and in the local press suggest that it was a question of time when the news site's critical tone would have been quelled by pro-government people.
Local media wrote that recruiting of new staff had begun. Bodolai said there was no need for that as he had received many applications. He is expected to accept the resignation of the staff on Monday.
Orban tightens grip on media
The end of Hungary's leading news website is a further blow to free media. The number of independent news sites has declined dramatically over the years as allies of Orban bought up hundreds of media outlets with state money.
At present some 500 outlets are under the control of the Central European Press and Media Foundation (KESMA), overseen by people loyal to the government. The cabinet blocked an antitrust investigation of the transfer of media outlets by a handful of Orban's cronies to KESMA, saying the transaction was of national strategic interest.
Hungary's illiberal leader has refused to give interviews to independent media outlets, including Index, since sweeping to power in 2010. Pro-government media including state television repeatedly pursued smear campaigns against opposition politicians and independent media.
During Orban’s tenure, Hungary’s media freedom deteriorated sharply. The country slipped two notches to 89th out of 180 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index published in April. In the previous year, the country's ranking fell by 14 places.
A senior European Commission official expressed concern over the independence of the media outlet earlier this month. "What you are doing, the values you are fighting for, media freedom and pluralism, are essential for democracy," said Vera Jourova, the European Commission's vice president for values and transparency, in a statement published by Index. "You can count on my support."
Reflections from our correspondents on the ground in the four Central European countries of Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.
here to continue reading this article
and 5 more for free or purchase
12 months full website access including
the bne Magazine for just $250/year.
Register to read the bne monthly magazine for
Password could contain only
and have 8-20 symbols length.
Please complete your registration by confirming your
A confirmation email has been sent to the email
address you provided.
can't be empty.
No user with
this email address.
Access recovery request has expired, or you are using
the wrong recovery token. Please, try again.
Access recover request has expired.
Please, try again.
To continue viewing our content you need to complete
the registration process.
Please look for an email that was sent to
with the subject line
"Confirmation bne IntelliNews access". This email will have
instructions on how to complete registration
process. Please check in your "Junk" folder in
case this communication was misdirected in your
If you have any questions please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sorry, but you have used all your free articles fro
this month for bne IntelliNews. Subscribe
to continue reading for only $119 per year.
Your subscription includes:
For the meantime we are also offering a free
digital weekly newspaper to subscribers to
the online package.
Click here for more subscription options,
including to the print version of our
flagship monthly magazine:
Take a trial to our premium daily news
service aimed at professional investors that
covers the 30 countries of emerging
For any other enquiries about our
products or corporate discounts please
contact us at
If you no longer wish to receive
Magazine annual print
Website & Archive
Combined package: web
access & magazine print
Take a trial to our premium daily news service
aimed at professional investors that
covers the 30 countries of emerging Europe: