Budapest, June 4 (MTI) – Janos Lazar, the cabinet chief, late on Tuesday asked the outgoing editor in chief of the Origo news portal to publicly deny rumours surrounding his dismissal.
Gergo Saling was “sacked” because Origo published articles concerning Lazar’s hotel bills, which critics have described as exorbitant, according to opposition demonstrators who held a protest against Saling’s removal yesterday.
Lazar said in a statement that “I’m asking the outgoing editor in chief of Origo — with whom as far as I can remember I have never spoken or met — to say publicly when, with whom and how I put pressure to get him dismissed. If he is unable to do so … as an honourable … man he should firmly deny these rumours.”
Speakers at the demonstration read out statements of portals Index, 444, Atlatszo and Origo itself to express solidarity with Origo’s editors and support the freedom of the press.
According to press reports, the editor in chief was removed from his position on Monday under political pressure.
The protesters chanted “free country, free media!” and walked to the Prime Minister’s Office next to Parliament, where the protest ended peacefully.
On Tuesday morning, Origo cited consumers’ changing demand for media services as the reason for reorganisation and changing its editor. Origo’s editorial staff, however, protested against Saling’s dismissal, and said that “continued operation is not guaranteed”.
Protesting in a statement, the Association of Hungarian Journalists said that the gesture was a “message to the independent media”.
“A power, which strives to intimidate and muffle the media it cannot control directly, is unacceptable in a democracy,” the statement said.
The opposition Socialist Party said that Saling’s dismissal was a sign of the government’s efforts to stifle the media. In a statement sent to MTI, the party said that Saling had been “given the sack” because Origo had published articles concerning hotel bills “in the million-forint range” associated with Lazar.
Origo, owned by Hungarian Telekom, has rejected allegations of being under political pressure.
Photo: MTI – Zsolt Szigetvary
please make a donation here