EU ‘Very Concerned’ Over Closure of Hungary Opposition Newspaper

The European Commission said it is “very concerned” about the halt in operations at Hungary’s most-widely circulated political newspaper over the weekend and is monitoring the situation closely.

The owner of the opposition publication, Nepszabadsag, abruptly suspended online and print editions on Saturday, saying it was seeking to reorganize its portfolio of regional papers. The company, Mediaworks, a unit of private equity firm Vienna Capital Partners, recently acquired a publisher of regional papers in 12 of Hungary’s 19 counties.

“The commission is aware of and concerned about the suspension of the Hungarian newspaper Nepszabadsag,” Margaritis Schinas, spokesman for the European Union executive, told reporters in Brussels on Monday. “Questions have been raised on the reasons of this suspension and we are of course following the situation closely.”

Opposition parties said the development is another sign of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s tightening grip on Hungarian media. The closing wasn’t necessary either for business or ethical reasons, the Socialists said in a statement.

“We’re very concerned and we’re reiterating that principles of media freedom, pluralism and the protection of journalists are fundamental elements of the free and open society that this commission defends,” Schinas said. “We’re following very closely.”

Schinas said any action by the commission in response to the development “has to be within our competences” as defined under EU treaties. “We can do no more than what we are asked, entitled or allowed by law in the treaties to do,” he said.

— With assistance by Marton Eder

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