Hungary 'media war' as Orban falls out with magnate

Senior managers within Hungary`s right-wing media resigned en masse Friday in an apparent escalation of a battle between Prime Minister Viktor Orban and a powerful media magnate and former ally.

Budapest: Senior managers within Hungary`s right-wing media resigned en masse Friday in an apparent escalation of a battle between Prime Minister Viktor Orban and a powerful media magnate and former ally.

Executives including the editor-in-chief at the Magyar Nemzet daily, Hir TV news channel`s president and Lanchid Radio`s chief editor issued a curt joint statement saying they were quitting for "reasons of conscience".

The media outlets, until now seen as friendly towards the controversial Orban`s government, are all partly owned or linked to Lajos Simicska, a powerful businessman and former college roommate of Orban.

There have been rumours for some time that the two men have fallen out, and Simicska late Thursday issued a statement promising an "all-out media war" over a mooted new media advertising tax by Orban`s government.

According to local media, the media and construction tycoon was caught off guard by Friday`s mass resignations, telling the Index news portal he will "fire every Orbanite and replace them with my people".

Kornelia Magyar, an analyst at the Hungarian Progressive Institute, told AFP that the resignations "signal that they (the executives) chose to side with Orban... There is a war that escalated very quickly today."

"Simicska is at least as important in the Hungarian political landscape as Orban in providing financial backing to (Orban`s party) Fidesz," Magyar said. "The ruling party was built around the Orban-Simicska axis."

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