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OSCE Criticizes Hungary for Closure of Opposition Newspaper

Demonstrators gather in front of the Parliament building to show their solidarity with the Hungarian political daily Nepszabadsag in Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016.

The closure of Hungary's main opposition newspaper, the left-wing Nepszabadsag, is a “huge blow” to the country's media diversity and press freedoms, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said in a statement Sunday.

OSCE’s Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that it was “hard to believe” the closure of Nepszabadsag was solely a business decision.

Mijatović said the deterioration of media diversity in Hungary was a bad example for countries aspiring to join the European Union.

The Associated Press is reporting that Mijatović told the news agency in a phone interview from Vienna that the European Commission “should pay greater attention to the issues related to press freedom in Hungary.”

Hungary's leading opposition newspaper will be put up for sale, its chief editor said Sunday, a day after its owner suspended publication.

Austrian-owned Mediaworks, the publisher of Nepszabadsag, said Saturday that it suspended further editions of the newspaper because of “considerable losses.”

Journalists at the paper said they had not received advance notice and when they tried to enter the building early Sunday, they found the doors locked and the windows blacked out.

Talks between Mediaworks management and senior editors Sunday did not result in any agreement on publishing the paper's Monday edition or restarting its online version, editor-in-chief Andras Muranyi told reporters outside the newspaper's headquarters in Budapest.

Regardless of who would be the new owner, Nepszabadsag "should remain independent" he said.

Opposition parties, activists and several staff blamed the abrupt suspension on Prime Minister Viktor's Orban's ruling right-wing party Fidesz clamping down on media outlets that do not follow the government line.

Since taking power in 2010, Orban has often been accused of trying to silence critical voices in the press.

Critics said the timing of the move was suspicious, coming only days after Nepszabadsag raised corruption allegations against two close allies of Orban.

About 2,000 people expressed solidarity with the journalists of Nepszabadsagat with a demonstration Saturday in Budapest.