Massive dismissals in Hungarian public broadcasting

VIENNA -- The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) expressed its deep concern over the wave of dismissals that started in Hungarian public broadcasting.

The EFJ was joined in its statement by the Vienna- based South East European Media Organization (SEEMO).

"This looks like a real purge taking place literally days after the end of the EU Presidency of Hungary and as the new media law is now fully effective," said EFJ President Arne Konig. "We are alarmed by the number of jobs concerned and also by the suspicion that some of these lay-offs may be politically motivated".

Last week over 570 of the total 3,400 staff members at the four state-run media companies - Magyar Radio, MTV, Duna TV and MTI - were sacked. In some cases entire teams were laid-off without any agreement or even serious talks with the unions was carried out. The lay-offs were made public between the 6th and the 8th July, and will be continued this week in the regional studios in five major cities. Hundreds more dismissals are foreseen in the autumn.

Amongst the dismissed people are widely acknowledged, well known and very popular, iconic personalities (reporters, commentators, editors) of the Hungarian public service media, especially those involved in news editing, political and/or cultural issues such as those covering the Houses of Parliament. In general, most affected journalists are those over 50, which may lead to a loss of expertise and experience.

According to the president of the board of trustees of Hungarian public broadcaster, there are many well-paid employees at state run media who have not produced any programs for one or two years. Journalists' organizations reject this argument and demand a transparent process of redundancies if the financial context of the public media in Hungary does not allow secure and sufficient financing of human resources and programming.

"Things should go the other way round: instead of cutting resources and complain about declining programs, it is the responsibility of the authorities to guarantee the financing of public media precisely to support quality journalism as a public good," said Konig. "The EFJ calls on journalists and civil society groups across Europe to support Hungarian journalists in their struggle."

Journalists' organizations, including the EFJ members MUOSZ and the Press Union, are holding a solidarity strike on July 13

The EFJ, the European group of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), represents more than 250,000 members in over 30 countries

The South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO) is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists from South, East and Central Europe.