(Corrects penultimate para to say government not involved)
By Krisztina Than and Marton Dunai
BUDAPEST, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Hungary’s leading leftist newspaper Nepszabadsag has been shut and its employees suspended after the publication piled up significant losses despite cost cuts, owner Mediaworks said on Saturday.
Mediaworks, owned by Austrian firm Vienna Capital Partners (VCP), said it was working on a new business model for Nepszabadsag (People’s Freedom), which has been in publication since November 1956.
“In order to achieve and concentrate fully on this priority task, all operations of Nepszabadsag (including print and online) will as of today be suspended until the new form is decided and can be implemented,” it said on the paper’s website nol.hu.
Employees, who received letters on Saturday informing them of Mediawork’s decision, said the closure had been unexpected.
The radical nationalist Jobbik opposition party blamed right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban for the closure, saying his Fidesz party wanted to control the entire Hungarian media.
Civil rights groups said the newspaper had been shut down because it had published stories critical of Orban’s government and they called for a demonstration for press freedom in front of parliament on Saturday.
“Today one of the last opposition newspapers was simply silenced,” the civil rights groups said on Facebook.
In its final edition on Saturday, the newspaper reported the latest in its articles on a minister in Orban’s government using a helicopter to fly to a wedding.
“Our first thought is that this is a coup. We will soon come back with more,” Nepszabadsag said in an editorial on its Facebook page.
Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said the government did not get involved in developments in the media industry.
“In Hungary press freedom is doing well,” he added.
Szilard Nemeth, a vice-chairman of Fidesz party, told HirTV “it is high time for Nepszabadsag to close down”. (Reporting by Krisztina Than and Marton Dunai; editing by Susan Thomas)