More than 70 journalists and staff at Hungary’s top news site Index have resigned, accusing the government of launching a bid to destroy or tame their website.
Index is the last of Hungary’s key independent media and editor in chief Szabolcs Dull was fired on Tuesday.
Its journalists said the sacking was “clear interference” and an attempt to apply pressure on the site.
Hours later protesters gathered in Budapest to rally for media freedom.
Over the past decade, supporters of nationalist and conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban have gradually taken control of Hungary’s independent media. Hungary is ranked 89th out of 180 countries on the Reporters without Borders World Press Freedom Index.
Demonstrators were planning to march on the prime minister’s office.
Only last month, Szabolcs Dull had warned that Index was “under such external pressure that could spell out the end of our editorial staff as we know it”. In an alarming piece published on 22 June, he warned that the website’s editorial staff were “in danger” and the dial on a “freedom barometer” on the homepage was moved to “in danger”.
On Friday, three leading editors and more than 70 others said they were ending their employment there, because board president Laszlo Bodolai had refused to reinstate the chief editor. There were emotional scenes as they proceeded to walk out of the office.
Mr Bodolai rejected claims that the website’s independence was at risk, blaming Dull for failing to control tension within the newsroom.
Pro-Orban businessman at centre of row
Fears for Index’s independence came to a head a few months ago when Miklos Vaszily, a pro-Orban businessman, took a 50% stake in the firm that controls Index’s advertising and revenue.
He already ran pro-government broadcaster TV2 and was seen as playing a key role in turning another Hungarian website, Origo, into a pro-Orban outlet.
As the drama unfolded in the Index newsroom on Friday, a photo emerged of Mr Vaszily having lunch with key Orban adviser and historian Maria Schmidt.
What does this mean for Hungary and Orban?
The demise of Index deprives the Hungarian public of the strongest independent voice in the media.
Staff resigned because they had pledged to remain free of political influence – in a country where much of the media simply await orders from the government on what to report, and how to report it.
The newsrooms of public service radio, TV and the state news agency MTI long ago gave up any pretence of impartiality.
Nepszabadsag, the main left-wing paper, ceased publication in 2016, while Origo, another news site , switched to the government side in 2014.
Nearly all regional media are part of the Fidesz media empire. Index reporters have formed a Facebook group to try to continue their work.
At first sight, events at Index look like yet another victory for Viktor Orban. But the man who rose to prominence opposing one-party rule has now re-established one-party rule. By capturing the state – economy, parliament, constitutional court, media – he risks looking ridiculous.
Those critical of his rule may also be forced to rethink the forms of their opposition. Some argue for new, or merged parties. But there is also a growing clamour to boycott parliament and the 2022 elections, to strip Orban of his last claim to democratic legitimacy.
Hungary’s continuing spat with EU
Mr Orban’s Fidesz-led government has repeatedly clashed with the European Union about rule of law, and the party was suspended by the European Parliament’s centre-right EPP grouping because of its immigration policies.
Last month, the EU’s top court ruled that Hungary broke European law by restricting foreign funding of civil society organisations.
Earlier this week, Mr Orban said Hungary and Poland had won a “huge victory” against EU countries trying to link rule of law guarantees to a new budget and package of Covid-19 recovery loans and grants.
But the head of the European Council, Charles Michel, was adamant that the deal agreed on Monday was “the first time that the respect for rule of law is a decisive criteria for budget spending”.
A Health Minister Has Admitted People With Coronavirus Symptoms May Be Denied A Test Due To Rationing
3 min read
The Health Minister Edward Argar has admitted some people with coronavirus symptoms could be refused an immediate test under plans to ration them to deal with a processing backlog.
He said despite a “ramping up” of testing capacity by the government it would need to prioritise “frontline NHS care workers, teachers and similar”.
As a result, Mr Argar told the BBC: “It is possible there will be people who have symptoms who apply for a test who have to wait longer, because we are prioritising those key frontline workers who we need to keep our NHS and care system working.”
He insisted anyone with symptoms should still apply for a test, but admitted while the prioritisation plans are in place – which are due to be revealed formally by health secretary Matt Hancock later today, they may not be offered one.
“That’s not saying if you don’t fit into those groups and you’ve got symptoms, ‘don’t do it’,” the minister explained.
“If you’ve got symptoms, apply for a test.”
He said the government was hoping that “Mr and Mrs Smith” would still be able to get a test “in a timely fashion”.
Mr Argar also rubbished claims the Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty is pushing for a new national lockdown to deal with the surge in new coronavirus cases.
He echoed the words of the Prime Minister yesterday, who said the financial consequences of such a move would be “disastrous”.
Mr Argar said: “We are guided by the science but we’re not necessarily guided by the speculation in the press.
“It’s not something I’ve heard from Chris. And it’s something the prime minister clearly doesn’t want to see.”
He told Sky News: “I know there’s speculation in the press today. But it’s not something I’ve seen within the department.
“The Prime Minister has been very clear about this, he doesn’t want to see another national lockdown.
“He wants to see people abiding by the regulations and making the local lockdowns work and get that infection rate down.”
The comments follow Mr Johnson’s evidence to the liaison committee in Parliament yesterday, where he said: “I don’t want a second national lockdown, I think it would be completely wrong for this country,” he told a group of senior MPs.
“We are going to do everything in our power to prevent it.
“Can we afford it? I very much doubt that the financial consequences would be anything but disastrous.”
Mr Argar also claimed the sharp rise in coronavirus cases can be controlled through local measures, telling the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “We saw in Leicester it worked, we saw those rates come right down – it does work and it does control it at a local level.
“I don’t think we are at a place where we would wish to see or need to see a national level of restrictions.”
The shadow communities secretary Steve Reed said “nobody wants to see another national lockdown”, but to avoid it there needs to be a “functioning” test, track and trace system.
He told Sky News the government “is getting this wrong”, adding: “Now that we’ve got more people going out and about as the economy opens, people are being encouraged to go back to work, children are going to school, young people are going to university, the risk of infections spreading is greater.
“But we don’t have the test, track and trace system that could keep everybody safe. So we risk further local or even national lockdowns.
“The fault of this has to be laid squarely at the feet of the government.”
Tour de France: Tadej Pogacar poised to win after stunning time-trial ride
Tadej Pogacar is set to win the Tour de France ahead of strong favourite Primoz Roglic in one of the most dramatic turnarounds in the race’s history.
Pogacar, 21, will be confirmed as the youngest winner for 111 years at the end of Sunday’s largely processional stage to Paris.
The UAE-Team Emirates rider overhauled a 57-second deficit to Roglic, who was thought to be a far stronger rider on stage 20’s time trial to La Planche des Belles Filles.
It will be a first Grand Tour victory for Slovenian Pogacar, who took the yellow jersey from compatriot Roglic after he had held it for 13 days.
Pogacar is now 59 seconds ahead of Roglic at the end of a day of drama reminiscent of the 1989 Tour, when Greg LeMond unexpectedly overhauled Laurent Fignon in a final-day time trial to win by eight seconds.
Richie Porte of Trek-Segafredo will be on the podium in Paris for the first time, taking third, three minutes and 30 seconds down.
Pogacar won the stage, one minute 21 seconds ahead of Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma team-mate Tom Dumoulin. Porte climbed to third overall after finishing in third place on the stage.
Britain’s Adam Yates of Mitchelton-Scott will finish ninth in the general classification, 9mins 25secs behind the winner.
What happened to Roglic?
Roglic has looked imperious throughout the three-week race thanks to support from his powerful team, featuring some of the sport’s best riders, including Dumoulin, Wout van Aert and Sepp Kuss.
The 36km stage from Lure to La Planche des Belles Filles was a challenging course that finished, unusually for time trial, with a category 1 climb. Roglic, 30, was considered a far better time triallist than Pogacar, and began the stage strongly.
But Roglic hit trouble at the changeover from super-fast specialist time-trial bikes to a more conventional road machine before the climb, struggling to clip into his pedals, wobbling when being pushed away and never seeming to find his typical rhythm.
Roglic, who claimed his first Grand Tour victory at last year’s Vuelta a Espana, looked desperate as he crossed the line, his helmet pushed upwards and slightly lop-sided, knowing already he had lost the race.
Desperation turned to confusion and dejection as he sat on the ground in his full yellow skinsuit, trying to comprehend how he had committed one of modern cycling’s biggest chokes.
And as Pogacar sat down for his post-race TV interview, Roglic interrupted it to embrace his countryman.
“I just didn’t push enough,” said Roglic. “It was like that. I was more and more without the power I needed but I gave it all until the end.
“We’ll see what happens next. I can be happy with the racing we showed here so let’s take positive things out of it.”
From a distant second, Pogacar takes it all
Roglic had been favourite to win the 107th edition of cycling’s greatest race, alongside defending champion Egan Bernal of Ineos Grenadiers.
However, Bernal abandoned the race before stage 17 following a disastrous climb up the Grand Colombier on stage 15, where he cracked and lost more than seven minutes to Roglic.
It was one of the biggest downturns in form for a defending champion in recent history, and put an end to Ineos’ record of winning every Tour since 2015, four of which were as Team Sky.
Ineos looked set to have something to celebrate as they tried to seal the polka dot King of the Mountains jersey through their second protected rider Richard Carapaz.
But despite 2019 Giro d’Italia winner Carapaz’s attempts to deliberately ride a slow first section before blasting up the mountain, Pogacar’s epic performance eclipsed him and he took the jersey.
It is the second of three jerseys Pogacar will claim at this year’s race – he will also pick up the young riders’ white jersey.
In total Pogacar picks up prize money of 500,000 euros (£458,270) for the yellow jersey, 25,000 euros (£22,900) for the King of the Mountains award, and a further 20,000 euros (£18,300) for being the best placed young rider.
“I’m really proud of the team,” Pogacar said. “They did such a big effort. We were dreaming of the yellow jersey from the start. Amazing.
“It was not just me today, we needed the whole team for the recon. I knew every corner and knew exactly where to accelerate. Congrats to all my team.
“I didn’t hear anything on the radio in the final five kilometres because the fans were too loud so I just went full gas.
“My dream was just to be on the Tour de France and now I’ve won it. It’s unbelievable.”
General classification after stage 20
1. Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE Team Emirates) 84hrs 26mins 33secs
2. Primoz Roglic (Slo/Jumbo-Visma) +59secs
3. Richie Porte (Aus/Trek-Segafredo) +3mins 30secs
4. Mikel Landa (Spa/Bahrain McLaren) +5mins 58secs
5. Enric Mas (Spa/Movistar) +6mins 07secs
6. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col/Astana) +6mins 47secs
7. Tom Dumoulin (Ned/Jumbo-Visma) +7mins 48secs
8. Rigoberto Uran (Col/EF Pro Cycling) +8mins 02secs
9. Adam Yates (GB/Mitchelton-Scott) +9mins 25secs
10. Damiano Caruso (Ita/Bahrain McLaren) +14mins 03secs
Stage 20 result
1. Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE Team Emirates) 55mins 55secs
2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned/Jumbo-Visma) +1min 21secs
3. Richie Porte (Aus/Trek-Segafredo) Same time
4. Wout van Aert (Bel/Jumbo Visma) +1min 31secs
5. Primoz Roglic (Slo/Jumbo-Visma) +1min 56secs
6. Remi Cavagna (Fra/Deceuninck-Quick-Step) +1min 59secs
7. Damiano Caruso (Ita/Bahrain McLaren) +2mins 29secs
8. David de la Cruz (Spa/UAE Team Emirates) +2mins 40secs
9. Enric Mas (Spa/Movistar) +2mins 45secs
10. Rigoberto Uran (Col/EF Pro Cycling) +2mins 54secs
Navalny says he can walk and recognize people as he eyes “clear road” to recovery from poisoning
Navalny posted a picture of himself walking down a staircase on Saturday, writing that he is regaining his physical and mental capacity.
“Quite recently, I did not recognize people and did not understand how to talk,” Navalny wrote. “Every morning the doctor came to me and said: Alexey, I brought a board, let’s figure out which word we can write on it. This drove me to despair because although I understood in general what the doctor wanted, I did not understand where to get the words from.
“Now I’m a guy whose legs are shaking when he walks up the stairs, but this guy thinks: ‘Oh, this is a staircase! People get up on these. Perhaps we should look for an elevator.’ And before, I would have just stood there and stared at it blankly,” the post added.
In the post, Navalny thanked the doctors of the Charité Hospital in Berlin, where he is undergoing treatment. The German government has said the Kremlin critic was poisoned with a chemical agent from the Novichok group, a conclusion supported by two other labs in France and Sweden.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on Friday questioned the water bottle as evidence and added that poisoning is one version of what happened to Navalny but it has not been confirmed as traces of poison were not found in Navalny’s blood by Russian labs.
Mary Ilyushina reported from Moscow, Rob Picheta wrote in London.
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