Friday October 21, 2016
Everywhere in the western world, printed newspapers are struggling to stay afloat. The old advertising-based model is no longer sustainable as more people turn to the Internet and alternative sources for their news and analysis. Hungary is no different. But some newspapers are more equal than others, and sometimes when market forces determine that a Washington-favored newspaper overseas goes out of business it becomes a matter of "human rights" and "free expression." That is the case in Hungary, where the former Communist Party paper's demise has earned strong words of scorn from the US State Department.
The newspaper Nepszabadsag (Liberty of the People) was founded by the Hungarian Communist Party in the midst of the 1956 revolution, a revolt where Hungarians rose up in attempt to pull themselves out from behind the iron curtain. For the next 30 plus years Nepszabadsag was the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, until shortly after the Berlin Wall fell. It was subsequently acquired by Bertelsmann AG, a German media conglomerate, in the early 1990s. But while there was a "system-change" in communist monopoly rule in Hungary, there was never a "system-change" in Hungary's former Communist Party mouthpiece.
The Communists renamed themselves "Socialists" and continued to play a leading role in Hungarian political life, winning the second post-communist election in 1994. Their newspaper Nepszabadsag remained at their side, lock-step loyal to the renamed communists and their allies. German businessmen who owned the paper did very little, as loyal former party members kept their subscriptions up and circulation high.