Fears for media monitoring as Hungary's main independent paper shuts

Its closure was marked by demonstrations outside parliament

The main left-leaning opposition newspaper in Hungary, Nepszabadsag, has closed.

The decision to suspend the publication by its owners, Mediaworks – who cited the need to seek a viable business model – sparked accusations of a “coup” from the paper’s journalists.

Many of them learned of the closure only when they were denied entry to its newsroom in Budapest on Saturday.

The move has been condemned by opposition parties, as 2,000 demonstrators gathered outside parliament to protest the closure. 

“The way it was done raises reasons for concerns - without transparency, without due process,” Dunja Mijatovic, media freedom representative told The Associated Press.

Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, who has voiced a desire to establish an “illiberal democracy”, has been repeatedly accused of interfering in the media.

Last week the paper reported on corruption allegations against an official close to Mr Orban, Central Bank Governor Gyorgy Matolcsy. The paper also reported critically on the recent referendum on refugee resettlement.

Rumours had been swirling around the Hungarian media scene for months that Mediaworks was about to be sold to a businessman with close links to the ruling party.

This gave rise to speculation over the identity of the prospective buyer and the impact such a deal was likely to have on the paper's ability to hold the government to account.

The ruling party maintains that it had no say in Mediaworks’ decision to shut down the publication.