Czech media group pledges 200,000 euros to independent Hungary news portal

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - One of the largest Czech media groups, Economia, has pledged to donate 200,000 euros to a new independent Hungarian website called started by former journalists of website Index, who quit en masse in July citing government pressure.

Index has been the largest media organisation in Hungary that is critical of the government, and almost its entire staff resigned over what they called an “open attempt to exert pressure” on the site after the owner sacked their editor-in-chief.

The move raised concerns that Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s nationalist government was intensifying efforts to muzzle critical voices. The government has denied what they called “untrue accusations”.

Economia, whose titles include financial daily Hospodarske Noviny and weekly magazine Respekt, is one of the largest Czech publishing houses and has been owned by Czech businessman and investor Zdenek Bakala for over a decade.

“Telex’s commitment to delivering outstanding journalism, particularly at a time when it is most needed, resonated strongly with us,” chair of the board at Economia, Zuzana Reznickova said in a statement.

“In a spirit of solidarity, the Board and owner of the media house have decided to support the Telex project with a donation in the amount of EUR 200,000 to the early costs of launching the medium.”

The former journalists of Index have launched a campaign to collect subscriptions and donations for Telex and more than 32,000 people have already contributed. It is not clear yet when the new site will be launched.

Marton Karpati, managing director of Telex, confirmed they held talks with Economia.

“They signaled their intention to help us with a donation, and we are open to this,” Karpati said, adding the details of the deal still needed to be worked out.

He said Economia would not get a stake in Telex in exchange for the support.

Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Chris Reese