Business magnate Lajos Simicska is withdrawing from the political advertising market after offering advertising space to radical nationalist Jobbik “for practically no charge” for months, daily Magyar Idők said on Thursday.
Simicska said in a statement on Wednesday that his companies will not carry political advertisements in the future.
“In the light of the situation, I believe it is impossible to take any further material and personal risk upon myself or the managers of my companies,” the paper quoted the statement as saying.
Magyar Idők said Simicska had transferred more than 1,000 hoardings to Jobbik last week, allegedly for a price to be paid in installments.
The paper noted that county government offices have been removing the posters, which attempt to discredit members of the government and those close to the government, from the hoardings because they are in violation of the law.
The posters are illegal because they were not contracted as required, the paper said, adding that Simicska’s companies could be fined 150,000 forints (EUR 481) per poster if they are not removed.
The paper learnt from the Pest County Government Office that the individual who ordered the posters, which bear a strong resemblance to ones earlier used in a Jobbik campaign, but do not bear the name of the party, is Ajtony Csaba Nagy, the nephew and business partner of Simicska. Csaba Nagy has been involved in all of Simicska’s biggest businesses in recent years, including Közgép, Mahir, Advenio and Pro-Aurum, Magyar Idők said. He is also on the board of the company that owns news portal Index.hu, it added.
Simicska, a businessman in construction and the media, was a one-time roommate of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, but had a falling out with Fidesz and the PM. Fidesz accuses Simicska of illicitly supporting Jobbik financially.
The strategic director of the Centre for Fundamental Rights told public television’s news channel M1 that the State Audit Office, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Media Council should launch investigations into the ad hoardings purchased by Jobbik. Purchasing advertisement space is an economic activity and the law on political parties prohibits this, Istvan Kovács said.
The fact that the posters do not identify who is behind them should be investigated by the Media Council, and it is unclear whether the affected local councils have given Jobbik a licence to use the public areas. The situation is very confusing but it appears that Jobbik has purchased the actual ad hoardings, not only the right to use them, Kovács said. The issue could be clarified if the party made the contracts public. If Jobbik acquired the ad hoardings at a preferential price, it qualifies as prohibited party financing, he added.