(Corrects penultimate para to say government not involved)
By Krisztina Than and Marton Dunai
BUDAPEST Oct 8 Hungary's leading leftist
newspaper Nepszabadsag has been shut and its employees suspended
after the publication piled up significant losses despite cost
cuts, owner Mediaworks said on Saturday.
Mediaworks, owned by Austrian firm Vienna Capital Partners
(VCP), said it was working on a new business model for
Nepszabadsag (People's Freedom), which has been in publication
since November 1956.
"In order to achieve and concentrate fully on this priority
task, all operations of Nepszabadsag (including print and
online) will as of today be suspended until the new form is
decided and can be implemented," it said on the paper's website
Employees, who received letters on Saturday informing them
of Mediawork's decision, said the closure had been unexpected.
The radical nationalist Jobbik opposition party blamed
right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban for the closure, saying
his Fidesz party wanted to control the entire Hungarian media.
Civil rights groups said the newspaper had been shut down
because it had published stories critical of Orban's government
and they called for a demonstration for press freedom in front
of parliament on Saturday.
"Today one of the last opposition newspapers was simply
silenced," the civil rights groups said on Facebook.
In its final edition on Saturday, the newspaper reported
the latest in its articles on a minister in Orban's government
using a helicopter to fly to a wedding.
"Our first thought is that this is a coup. We will soon come
back with more," Nepszabadsag said in an editorial on its
Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said the government did
not get involved in developments in the media industry.
"In Hungary press freedom is doing well," he added.
Szilard Nemeth, a vice-chairman of Fidesz party, told HirTV
"it is high time for Nepszabadsag to close down".
(Reporting by Krisztina Than and Marton Dunai; editing by Susan