BUDAPEST — Hungary’s state radio touched off a political firestorm March 4 by announcing the dismissals of 129 employees, mainly journalists.
The sacked workers and opposition parties branded the move as an attempt to silence criticism of the government two months before elections in this former communist state, which has moved to a Western-style democracy.
Banned from work
Editors and journalists were dismissed as of April 12 but were effectively banned from work beginning last Monday, depriving Hungarian radio of many of its best reporters in the campaign period, journalists said at a trade union meeting.
Journalists said it appeared to complete a process of dropping independent-minded reporters from newscasts of national television and radio.
“Most of those fired belong to the elite of the radio broadcasting profession ,” Laszlo Gyori, the president of the Independent Trade Union of Radio Broadcasters said.
The journalists said the move could cripple prospects for a government/opposition agreement on a long-disputed media bill before nationwide elections scheduled in May.
In a statement published through the MTI news agency, government official Laszlo Csucs said that the 129 people were pensioned or laid off for reasons of economy.
Hungarian radio employed more than 2,000 people, he said, which compared badly to Western broadcasters like Swiss Radio, where 1,200 people run 10 national programs.