Throughout its 86-year history, Times of Malta’s editorial arm has operated separately from its commercial department. We do this to ensure editorial content is not influenced by sales.

But, today, we could not accept a full-page advert (and the money) of a prime minister who is notorious for clamping down on human rights and who has restricted the free press in his own country.

Through an agency, Hungary’s right-wing prime minister, Viktor Orbán is booking full-page adverts in several of Europe’s top newspapers, highlighting his government’s proposals on the future of the European Union.

Outlined in seven points, he lashes out at the Brussels “superstate”, implies that it is NGOs, and not elected governments, that are taking decisions and says “the people of Europe” must be protected from mass migration.

He also questions the legitimacy of the European Parliament, (which is elected by EU citizens) as a “dead end” and which he claims represents only its own ideological interests.

We will not sit idly by as he takes advantage of it elsewhere, by using a paid advert to spread his rhetoric

We feel it would not be right for us to accept an advert from a prime minister who has repeatedly dealt one blow after another to press freedom in his own country.

Since coming into power in 2010, Orbán’s government has amended media laws to ensure it controlled appointments to the main media regulatory body and introduced vague content restrictions, all of which has had a chilling effect on press freedom.

One of Hungary’s last remaining independent radio stations was taken off the air just last March.

Publishing his advert would make Times of Malta an instrument for promoting everything that runs against press freedom and would indicate support for a prime minister who has clamped down on journalists, democracy, rule of law  and other human rights.

Let’s also not forget that Orbán’s government is also currently under heavy fire for recent Hungarian legislation which targets the LGBTIQ community, a blatant violation of human rights for an EU country.

Choosing what to publish is exercising one of our fundamental rights in free expression and here we are choosing to act in favour of rule of law, which includes the support of human rights and press freedom in Europe.

We will undoubtedly be accused of censorship and of restricting freedom of speech. We understand this criticism but one of the responsibilities of a free press is to promote democracy and rule of law.

Responsible journalism means a media organisation should not promote or support action which fosters or reflects intolerance, discrimination, and the erosion of the rule of law.

Orbán’s government has effectively declared war on Hungary’s free press.

We will not sit idly by as he takes advantage of it elsewhere, by using a paid advert to spread his rhetoric.

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