Local government seeks to dump paper that took paid ad from Socialists criticizing Orbán

According to Médiajogfigyelő (Media Law Monitor), the Fidesz-majority local council of Szombathely voted to immediately cancel the contract with the private company publishing the local government’s newspaper after the newspaper printed an advertisement critical of Fidesz Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and party-affiliated businessman Lajos Simicska. The mayor of Szombathely claimed the advertisement was in violation of the media law, including the provision on human dignity. 

The paid advertisement, commissioned by the local body of the Socialist Party (MSZP), said: “Orbán and Simicska rip off the country!” Simicska, a close ally of Orbán’s, has been awarded numerous government contracts since Fidesz was elected in 2010.

Szombathely Mayor Tivadar Puskás said the local government’s publishing company had the legal right to break the contract with Promed, the company paid to produce the newspaper, because the newspaper broke the law by violating the human dignity of Orbán and Simicska, and because the advertisement was campaign advertising, which is only legally allowed during election periods. But an opposition member of the local council and Promed disagreed with that legal interpretation.

According to Médiajogfigyelő, a violation of human dignity did not take place. Article 14 of the Press Freedom Act (Act CIV of 2010) states that “the media service provider shall respect human dignity in the media content that it publishes,” and that “no wanton, gratuitous and offensive presentation of persons in humiliating, exposed or defenceless situations shall be allowed in the media content.” Furthermore, as public figures,  Médiajogfigyelő states that both the prime minister and Simicska should bear more critique then private citizens. The organization also points out also adds that regulations about the prohibition of political advertisements only refers to media service providers, which are the TV and the radio, but not the print media.