BUDAPEST, March 3 Hungarian businessman Lorinc
Meszaros, an ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, has acquired
stakes in Opimus, which owns the publisher of several
of the country's main newspapers, a stock exchange filing
The move is another wrinkle in a shake-up of Hungary's
commercial media landscape, where businessmen seen as close to
the right-wing government have steadily enhanced their market
The publisher, Mediaworks, is one of the biggest media
companies in Hungary, owning the main sports daily Nemzeti
Sport, business daily Vilaggazdasag and several regional daily
Opimus said in an official filing with the Budapest Stock
Exchange on Friday that Meszaros, who is regarded as a close
friend of Orban and is mayor of Orban's home village Felcsut,
had acquired 16.9 percent of Opimus.
Meszaros also took a further 14 percent stake in Opimus via
another company called Konzum Management Kft, the statement
Last month Meszaros bought 20 percent of Konzum's parent
company. He also owns Echo TV, a private TV channel.
Opimus officials were not immediately available for comment.
"We do not comment on changes in the media market, just as
we did not comment in the past," a government spokesman said in
an emailed reply to a Reuters' request for comment.
Mediaworks was bought by Opimus last October, after one of
its newspapers, Hungary's main leftist daily, was shut down
overnight amid disputed circumstances, reigniting criticism over
Orban's moves to curb the independence of the media.
The newspaper, Nepszabadsag (People's Freedom), had been
founded during Hungary's abortive popular uprising against
Soviet domination 60 years ago.
Meszaros had previously denied media reports of links to
Mediaworks or Opimus and neither he nor those companies had
responded to previous Reuters requests for comment.
The control over large parts of the media exerted by
business interests close to the prime minister, and the sense
that this might increase ahead of parliamentary elections in
2018, has drawn criticism at home and abroad.
Since coming to power in 2010, Orban's right-wing populist
government has locked horns with the European Commission over
reforms, which critics say have eroded democratic checks and
balances and weakened the independence of the media.
(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Susan Fenton)