2017-03-22
It’s getting ever harder to gain access to public interest data in Hungary. This is particularly problematic, taking into consideration that reporting on the government’s abuse of power and the endemic corruption is one of the last remaining checks and balances in Hungary.
 
The information law was reformulated, and now it seems like its new purpose is not to allow citizens to access information, but to enable the state to keep its activities secret. And the access to information is particularly restrictive when the information is related to the activities of the mayor of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s home village, Felcsút. 
 
Laws are made or rewritten so that he can keep as much as possible of his activities secret – an example: companies don’t have to disclose which sports clubs they support with the spectators’ sport tax incentives; thus no one knows for sure where his company’s state-subsidized donations go to.
 
But why is there so much secrecy around this person? Mayor Lőrinc Mészáros is since 2013 among the 100 wealthiest Hungarians. The income of his main company Mészáros és Mészáros has increased a thousand-fold between 2006 and 2016 and changed his profile from gas repair services to construction. When journalists asked him, how come the value of his companies has grown faster than that of Facebook, he answered: “I am most likely smarter than Mark Zuckerberg.”
 
He is not only one of the main beneficiaries of EU funds in the country (his construction companies have received, as parts of consortiums, public contracts worth nearly 500 million euros), but as a media entrepreneur, he also fuels the Hungarian propaganda machinery. And on top of that, he is believed to manage the secret wealth of the Orbán family.
 
In our articles we have collected and organized evidence that show that a large number of Mészáros’s favours to the Prime Minister’s family cannot be called coincidences anymore, thus, the approximately 120 firms he controls, valuing 260 million euros (according to our estimations) can be seen, at least in part, as the wealth of the Hungarian Prime Minister.
 
In the articles that are published in the Hungarian-language Magyar Narancs, the Berlin-based TAZ, and the English-language website of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, we have documented how access to information is made harder for journalist in Hungary, how reporters are dealt with in the Prime Minister's home village, and we also found out that there is a rift between Mészáros and one of his middlemen, which may cause the mayor some serious problems in the management of his 100+ companies.
 

Ákos Keller-Alánt

Ákos Keller-Alánt is an investigative journalist based in Budapest, Hungary.

Tibor Rácz

Tibor Rácz is a Hungarian investigative journalist.

Krisztian Simon

Krisztian Simon is a doctoral candidate at the Freie Universität in Berlin, where his research focuses on media development in Eastern and Central Europe.

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