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Editor-in-chief of Index.hu fired just weeks after company said its independence was 'in danger'

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Szabolcs Dull has been fired from the online publication
Szabolcs Dull has been fired from the online publication   -   Copyright  Index.hu
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The editor-in-chief of Hungary's main online news site has been fired just weeks after the company said it felt its independence was "in danger" from external forces.

Szabolcs Dull released a statement through the site, Index.hu, as the announcement of his termination was made on Wednesday, and said he felt it was "no accident" that the editorial staff had felt endangered.

He said: "Throughout, I kept the interests of Index’s editorial team in mind, as was my duty as editor-in-chief.

"The events of recent weeks have further convinced us that Hungary needs a paper where non-stealthy external forces decide what goes into the newspaper and who makes that newspaper.

"Where the only goal is to inform readers. Where there is no upper, unrecognisable political or economic will.

"Where you can work freely, independently."

Index.hu
Index.hu set up a barometer in 2018 to monitor its editorial freedomsIndex.hu

It comes after Index.hu released a statement in June to say it had changed its barometer on editorial freedoms in the company from "independent" to "in danger".

The barometer was set up in 2018 to monitor independence after a change of ownership in companies that handled its advertising and provided its IT services.

This became particularly prevalent amid Prime Minister Viktor Orban's later efforts to exert more control over the national media.

"Index is under such external pressure that could spell out the end of our editorial staff as we know it," Dull wrote in a statement signed by nearly 90 employees last month over a proposed organisational overhaul.

He added: "We are concerned that with the proposed organisational overhaul, we will lose those values that made Index.hu the biggest and most-read news site in Hungary."

In a statement on Wednesday about Dull's sacking, Index.hu staff said the decision was "unnaccpetable".

The statement said the company's CEO had told Dull that he was being fired for leaking a document about the planned overhaul of Index, which prompted the barometer change.

But the staff said they believed his actual dismissal was due to Dull making it "clear that he will not yield to blackmail".

They claimed this came after the CEO spent the weeks after the barometer change trying to force them to change it back by "blackmailing" them with austerity measures.

"His dismissal is an undisputable intervention in the composition of our staff, and we cannot regard it any other way but as an overt attempt to apply pressure on Index.hu that will result in the decline of independent reporting," the statement concluded.

Click on the player above to watch Alex Morgan's report in #TheCube, featuring an interview with Daniel Hegedüs from the German Marshall Fund.