October 21, 2016
Suspended Budapest journalists align themselves symbolically with the homeless
by Kait Howard
Yesterday, journalists at the liberal Budapest newspaper Nepszabadsag, which was abruptly shut down earlier this month, staged a collaboration with the city’s homeless to protest what they believe was a government intervention aimed at quashing dissent.
The Associated Press’s Pablo Gorondi reported that the paper’s journalists joined together to write articles for a biweekly magazine sold by the homeless, “partly because of its symbolic relationship with their own uncertain condition.” The approximately fifty reporters and editors have been in limbo since October 8, when Nepszabadsag’s parent company, Mediaworks, announced without any warning that it was suspending operations.
As Helene Bienvenu previously reported for the New York Times, Mediaworks cited financial losses as the reason for the suspension, but the journalists—including investigative reporter Roland Baksa and deputy editor-in-chief Marton Gerely—believe the real motive was “interference” from Hungary’s right-wing prime minister Viktor Orban, “[who] has reined in government-run media and appears to be wielding increasing influence over privately run news companies.”
A government representative denied the claims, but it’s hard not to view the shutdown in a suspicious light: in an interview with Bienvenu, Baksa described leaving the office as usual on Friday, the 7th, only to wake up the next day to find that he could no longer access his work email or the newspaper website.
By joining with the homeless this week to create and distribute their magazine, “Without a Roof,” Nepszabadsag’s former employees hoped to spur discussion with people on the streets about the fate of the paper, and as well as larger threats to free speech in the country.
Kait Howard was a publicist at Melville House.