The Central European Press and Media Foundation

KESMA owner and technical director Gábor Liszkay (photo: hvg.hu).

The Central European Press and Media Foundation (Közép-Európai Sajtó és Média Alapítvány, or KESMA) was founded on September 11, 2018, to serve as a non-profit organization under which pro–Orbán-government private media in Hungary could be consolidated.

Orbán-government oligarchs, officials and their family members as well as pro–Orbán- government journalists and entrepreneurs have since transferred ownership of 476 media outlets to KESMA without financial compensation (source in English).

The official aim of the KESMA is “to promote those activities of the print, radio, TV and online sections of the Hungarian mass media which serve to build values and strengthen Hungarian national consciousness” (source in English).

Five pro–Orbán government lawyers and journalists lead KESMA (sources A, B, C and D in Hungarian):

owner and technical director Gábor Liszkay, who oversaw the government takeover of the daily newspaper Napi Gazdaság and the television station Hír TV;

manager Miklós Vaszily, the former CEO of the Media Services and Support Trust Fund (MTVA);

advisory board President István Varga, who served as Fidesz National Assembly representative from 2010 to 2014;

advisory board member Miklós Szánthó, director of the Fidesz-supported Center for Fundamental Rights (Alapjogokért Központ);

and advisory board member István Bajkai, the Orbán family lawyer who was a founding member of Fidesz and has served as one of the party’s National Assembly representatives since 2018.

The Lake Balaton summer home of Central European Press and Media Foundation owner and technical director Gábor Liszkay serves as the registered headquarters of KESMA (source in Hungarian).

The Central European Press and Media Foundation directly or indirectly received 469 of its 476 media outlets from the following seven people (source in English):

oligarch Lőrinc Mészáros;

oligarch and Orbán-government film commissioner Andy Vajna;

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s chief strategic adviser Árpád Habony;

House of Terror and the Twenty-First Century Institute (XXI. Század Intézet) director Mária Schmidt;

entrepreneur Ádám Matolcsy, son of National Bank of Hungary Governor György Matolcsy;

Austrian entrepreneur Heinrich Pecina;

and journalist Miklós Ómolnár.

KESMA’s media outlets, which generated composite revenue of  55.7 billion forints (180.1 million euros) in 2017, include the following major newspapers, freesheets, magazines, television stations and internet portals (sources A and B in Hungarian):

all 18 county-based daily newspapers;

the daily newspapers Magyar Idők, Világgazdaság and Nemzeti Sport;

the daily tabloids Bors and Ripost;

the freesheets Lokál and Lokál Extra;

the weekly magazines Figyelő and Szabad Föld;

the television stations Echo TV and Hír TV;

and the internet portals origo.hu, mandiner.hu and 888.hu.

The Central European Press and Media Foundation therefore owns all but the following four major pro–Orbán-government media outlets:

the Andy Vajna–owned television station TV2;

the Gábor Széles–owned daily newspaper Magyar Hírlap;

the András Bencsik–owned weekly magazine Demokrata;

and the internet portal pestisracok.hu.

In December 2018, the Orbán government issued a decree declaring the consolidation of the 476 media outlets into the Central European Press and Media Foundation to be of “national strategic importance” (nemzetstratégiai jelentőségű), thus exempting their concentration under KESMA ownership from media-competition regulations enforced through the Hungarian Competition Authority (GVH) and the Media Council (source in Hungarian).

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