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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán before the Visegrad Group (V4) summit on 11th June 2020 © MARTIN DIVISEK/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

How democracies die: the case of Hungary

Viktor Orbán is extinguishing liberty one freedom at a time

By Samira Shackle   October 2020

When Szabolcs Panyi started working at Index in 2013, he was excited to join one of Hungary’s most widely-read independent news sites. The outlet had started in the early days of the internet as a liberal, freewheeling place, posting quirky content for Budapest’s intellectuals. Eventually it had started to cover more serious stories. Panyi, a political and investigative journalist, was part of that shift. Index published stories on Russian meddling in Hungary, on alleged corruption involving individuals in Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s inner circle, and on policies that threatened democratic institutions. It won national prizes for its reporting, and the number of daily readers continued to increase. But even back then, there was a sense of looming threat.

In 2014, one of Index’s main competitors, another independent news site called Origo, was bought by media executive Miklós Vaszily, an associate of Orbán’s. Soon after, Vaszily sacked Origo’s editor-in-chief,…

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