Hungarian newspaper Népszabadság closes due to financial losses

Publisher Mediaworks has said it is searching for the "best business model" for the Népszabadság paper, offering subscribers alternative publications or refunds

Hungary's largest left-wing political newspaper Népszabadság has suspended its operations due to “considerable“ financial losses.

Despite a statement by the publication's owner that the closure was in fact due to financial reasons, some critics charged that the Hungarian government is clamping down on the media.

Thousands of people attended a rally on Saturday afternoon to support freedom of the press and the Népszabadság paper outside Parliament.

Mediaworks said it was searching for the "best business model" for the Népszabadság paper, offering subscribers alternative publications or refunds. The company did not say when the newspaper might reappear but said it wants to "preserve Népszabadság for the future."

Mediaworks said the paper has lost more than 5 billion HUF since 2007 and was generating "a considerable net loss" so far this year.

Mediaworks, owned by Austrian private equity firm Vienna Capital Partners, controls a large sector of the Hungarian print media market, including the Vilaggazdaság business daily and the Nemzeti Sport sports daily. Last year, it acquired the 27.7 percent stake in Népszabadság that had been owned by a foundation set up by the Socialist Party. Last week, the company announced the acquisition of regional newspapers in 12 counties.

Népszabadság, which means people's freedom, launched in 1956 and operated under the control of Hungary's ruling communist party until 1989. It has a circulation reported to be around 40,000, down from around 115,000 in 2008 and 270,000 in 1995.