(Bloomberg) -- Hungary’s opposition called for a probe against Prime Minister Viktor Orban after Austria's nationalist leader said in a leaked video that a convicted businessman helped the premier take over his nation's media industry.
The Jobbik party called for a special parliamentary commission Sunday to investigate Orban, arguing that he was indirectly implicated by a 2017 video leaked over the weekend that toppled Austria’s government and triggered early elections.
In the footage, which prompted Heinz-Christian Strache’s resignation as vice chancellor and the head of the nationalist Freedom Party, Strache suggests trading government contracts for campaign funds and discusses building a media juggernaut like Orban’s. The plan included turning Austria’s biggest tabloid and public broadcaster into more pro-Freedom Party platforms. Strache said he didn’t commit a crime.
“We want to build a media landscape like Orban did,” Strache said in the video footage, in which he speaks with a woman claiming to be the relative of a Russian oligarch. He recommends a convicted Austrian investor, Heinrich Pecina, as a “big player,” saying he “bought up all Hungarian media for Orban over the past 15 years and primed them for him."
Pecina, an investor convicted of fraud in Austria, gained full control of Hungary’s biggest opposition newspaper in 2015 via the private-equity firm Vienna Capital Partners. He shut down the daily the following year, citing business reasons. He then sold a huge media portfolio to Lorinc Meszaros, Orban’s friend and closest business ally.
Including public outlets, which Orban has transformed into a propaganda vehicle since returning to power in 2010, 78% of Hungarian media by revenue now toe the ruling-party line, according to an April 25 study by Mertek, a media-monitoring think tank.
Orban’s office didn’t immediately respond to questions seeking comment for this article, including about a January 2018 meeting with Pecina. In a statement to news website Index, Orban’s press chief said Strache’s resignation was an internal affair of Austria. Orban’s Fidesz party has a constitutional majority in parliament, which it has used in the past to block parliamentary inquiries.
Strache was among the far-right leaders Orban hosted in Budapest this month, part of efforts to explore a potential nationalist alliance following this weekend’s European Parliament elections.
--With assistance from Boris Groendahl.
To contact the reporter on this story: Zoltan Simon in Budapest at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at email@example.com, Michael Winfrey, Andrea Dudik
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