More than 80 journalists resign from Hungarian news outlet after the editor-in-chief was fired – Interview with journalist András Földes

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Index.hu is one of the largest and certainly the most popular independent news sites available in Hungary. Last week, Index’s editor-in-chief Szabolcs Dull was fired. On Friday, more than 80 journalists within Index, including some of the leading editors initiated proceedings for their resignation. One of them, András Földes who has been working within Index as a journalist for about 20 years was Özge Somlyai-Çakır’s guest to talk about what is going on at Index and about freedom of the press in Hungary. 

“We knew for a while that hard times were coming for Index,” says András Földes. A month ago, the board of the company that provides Index with the advertisement revenue to carry on their journalistic practices suggested outsourcing content for the news site. “This basically meant intervening in the editorial process at Index,” Földes says, and it would not let the journalists working within Index to have control over the news content published on the website. “It makes no sense. Neither for us (journalists working at Index) nor for economic purposes. The only reason behind the idea of outsourcing content for Index was to jeopardize the media community in Hungary,” he adds. 

“By firing our editor-in-chief Szabolcs Dull, the Index company board crossed the red line for us”

“What happened last week when our editor-in-chief Szabolcs Dull was fired breached our principals at Index, and the company board crossed the red line for us,” says Földes. He also adds that the board members were not being honest with the journalists at Index. “One day they say that they will discuss re-employing Szabolcs Dull. But on the same day, a press release (within an hour) announced that Szabolcs Dull was fired for good,” he says. When András Földes and his colleagues were convinced that the board was just playing around, they decided to leave Index despite the fact that they had nowhere else to go. 

“We knew for a while that hard times were coming for Index,” says András Földes. A month ago, the board of the company that provides Index with the advertisement revenue to carry on their journalistic practices suggested outsourcing content for the news site. “This basically meant intervening in the editorial process at Index,” Földes says, and it would not let the journalists working within Index to have control over the news content published on the website. “It makes no sense. Neither for us (journalists working at Index) nor for economic purposes. The only reason behind the idea of outsourcing content for Index was to jeopardize the media community in Hungary,” he adds. 

“By firing our editor-in-chief Szabolcs Dull, the Index company board crossed the red line for us”

“What happened last week when our editor-in-chief Szabolcs Dull was fired breached our principals at Index, and the company board crossed the red line for us,” says Földes. He also adds that the board members were not being honest with the journalists at Index. “One day they say that they will discuss re-employing Szabolcs Dull. But on the same day, a press release (within an hour) announced that Szabolcs Dull was fired for good,” he says. When András Földes and his colleagues were convinced that the board was just playing around, they decided to leave Index despite the fact that they had nowhere else to go. 

What happened during the last two weeks came as no surprise for Földes and his colleagues. The ownership of the company has changed many times over the years, Földes says. This certainly affected the level of freedom and independence that Index.hu and journalists had. Recently, the company was divided into two, and the revenue coming from the second company’s advertisement activities basically was the source of income for journalists working for Index. When they realized that this might pose a threat to the independence of their news site, Földes and his colleagues decided to create a barometer showing “how independent” their reporting was. In June, the barometer’s status was changed from “independent” (független in Hungarian) to “in danger” (veszélyben in Hungarian). 

What happens currently at Index.hu is not a new phenomenon in Hungary or for journalists in Hungary. About 6 years ago, the country’s biggest news portal Origo.hu was bought by the oligarch Miklós Vaszily and turned into the Hungarian government’s propaganda tool, he explains. “Index was next,” he says “Vaszily’s aim is to turn every single media platform and news outlet in Hungary into a propaganda tool for Prime Minister Viktór Orbán’s propaganda tool.” 

Last weekend, in Hungary’s capital Budapest, demonstrations were organized, thousands of people marched for media freedom in the country. “I do not want to be too emotional but all of us were shocked, really surprised that we thousands of people were there to support us,” Földes says. “This gives us hope that independent journalism still has a place in Hungary,” he adds. Journalists who resigned from Index will carry their work onto another platform and they will be doing their jobs independently Földes says, but he cannot provide any details at the moment due to legal reasons. He is hoping to share some good news with Medyascope in the upcoming months. 

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