The new media landscape: Magyar Nemzet versus Napi Gazdaság

Back in 2010 I devoted a post to a comparison of the domestic news reporting of two Hungarian dailies: Magyar Nemzet, then a government mouthpiece, and Népszabadság, a paper close to the Magyar Szocialista Párt (MSZP). All the articles appeared on the same day, and the results were startling. As I said then, “Two papers, two worlds.” Nowadays, when the print and online Hungarian media world is in turmoil, I thought it might be useful to take a look at the contents of the new Magyar Nemzet and the paper that took its ideological place, Napi Gazdaság.

In 2010 the most obvious difference between the two newspapers was which news items the editors picked from the offerings of MTI, the Hungarian news agency. Magyar Nemzet neglected to report on news that was unfavorable to the government while it picked up items of perhaps lesser importance if they showed the Orbán government in a good light. Népszabadság, on the whole, covered the events of the day more accurately, but there was a tendency to overemphasize matters that reflected badly on the government.

napi gazdasag2

Fast forward to 2015. Let’s start with Napi Gazdaság. If you recall, Viktor Orbán in his interview claimed that the reason for his government’s problem is the loss of the media that in the past explained the policies of his administration and directed public opinion “appropriately.” Looking at today’s Napi Gazdaság, one finds at least one article that aims to explain the government’s position on what it considers to be an important issue: the objections of the European Commission to certain provisions of the law on the use of agricultural lands, something I wrote about yesterday. Although other papers, including Magyar Nemzet and Népszabadság, didn’t consider the announcement of the chairman of the parliamentary commission on agricultural matters concerning the issue important enough to cover, Napi Gazdaság found it newsworthy. The message the paper wants to convey is that “the Hungarian law doesn’t contain anything that cannot be found in some other, older member states,” and therefore the Hungarian government finds the EU objections discriminatory.

There is another important task Napi Gazdaság must perform–anti-Gyurcsány propaganda. Although the news that Ferenc Gyurcsány’s consulting firm received the job of supervising an international team to improve the quality of decisions on contracts subsidized by the EU is old, Napi Gazdaság decided to include an article on the opinion of Ildikó Pelcz (née Gáll), who thinks that “the case is still full of question marks.” For good measure, the paper ran an editorial titled “Pinocchio.” The editorial combats Ferenc Gyurcsány’s newly announced program on utility prices. More than half of the editorial is designed to show the superiority of the government’s earlier decreases in utility prices over Gyurcsány’s suggestions.

One must always keep alive anti-communism, even if it takes some ingenuity to find a reason for talking about it. Gergely Gulyás made a speech at a conference held in the parliament building in which he called attention to the sufferings of the people on “this side of the iron curtain.” He also charged that “no one ever asked for forgiveness for the sins of communism” but immediately added that “those who maintained that regime can never be forgiven.”

A good government paper must also include some cheerful news, which is hard to come by of late. Therefore, a misleading headline always comes in handy. For example, one of the articles claims that “85% of Hungarian youth believe that they will be successful in life.” The other results of the survey, however, are not so rosy. That these young people believe that “to be successful one needs connections” should make readers wonder about the true state of affairs in Hungary when it comes to job opportunities. Or that over 40% of them would like to work abroad. On the other hand, we ought to rejoice at learning that the Raoul Wallenberg School, after so much tribulation, will be able to move, although “the final decision” will be reached by Zoltán Balog only at the end of May. But then why the announcement now? 

And finally, one ought to hit the opposition hard and, if possible, accuse them of dishonesty and possible fraud. Ferenc Papcsák, former mayor of Zugló, accuses the new administration of Gergely Karácsony of PM (who was supported by all the democratic opposition parties) of wasting the 2.5 billion forints he left behind. According to him, the salaries of employees haven’t been paid, certain projects had to be shelved, and the local paper, for the first time in 19 years, cannot appear because of a lack of funds.

There are several important pieces of news that Napi Gazdaság simply ignores. One is that Béla Turi-Kovács, a Fidesz member of parliament, is turning in a request to re-examine the abandonment of the M4 project. Turi-Kovács began his political career in the Smallholders party and served as minister of the environment in the first Orbán government between 2000 and 2002. This piece of news was reported by Magyar Nemzet, but the abandoned M4 is not something that should be talked about in a government paper.

The other significant news of the day that Napi Gazdaság failed to report on is that the head of Lombard Kézizálog Zrt., a financial institution that went bankrupt back in April, was arrested. Eight banks suffered a loss of about four billion forints. Perhaps even more interesting is another piece of news, this time about Lombard Lízing Zrt., a company being sued by a former customer who received a loan of 3.5 million forints in Swiss francs. Without going into the very complicated details of the case, the Hungarian National Bank and the government are siding with Lombard Lízing Zrt. against the customer. Fidesz seems to be so interested in the case that a Fidesz member of parliament between 2010 and 2014 will represent Lombard in the suit. That piece of news was discussed in a lengthy article in Magyar Nemzet but not in Napi Gazdaság.

Another topic that Magyar Nemzet, like other dailies, spends time on is the question of capital punishment. After all, there will be a discussion of Viktor Orbán’s reference to the death penalty tomorrow in the European Parliament. Magyar Nemzet actually has two interviews on the subject. One with Tamás Lattmann, a professor of international law, and another with Dóra Duró of Jobbik. Lattmann explains that no referendum can be held on the subject, while Duró tells about a debate within the party. The interviews were conducted by Lánchíd Rádió, another Simicska concern.

It is again not surprising that news that the association of history teachers and historians called on the government to condemn the 1915 genocide of Armenians did not appear in Napi Gazdaság. On the other hand, Magyar Nemzet is sympathetic to the cause of the Armenians, and the paper had a number of articles on the subject in the middle of April. Napi Gazdaság would never report on the historians’ request because, first of all, the historians involved are not exactly favorites of this government. Second, the Orbán government has exceedingly good relations with Turkey. Finally, Armenia broke off diplomatic relations with Hungary after the Orbán government sent an Azeri national who murdered an Armenian in Hungary back to Kazakhstan as a friendly gesture to the Azeri dictator.

Magyar Nemzet nowadays provides space for opposition members to express their views. For example, in today’s paper they reported on the opinion of Bernadett Szél, an LMP member of parliament, that the taxpayers will be responsible for the cost of taking care of atomic waste that will accrue at Paks.

The latest news about Vladimir Putin’s remarks on Hungary’s economic interest and the Paks II nuclear power plant naturally appeared in both papers. But there is an important difference. The Magyar Nemzet article consists of four sentences. It is restricted to the bare facts. Napi Gazdaság, on the other hand, spends considerable time on the issue, adding details about the size and the nature of the Russian loan.

Magyar Nemzet can no longer be considered a “government mouthpiece.” That role was taken over by Napi Gazdaság. The question is whether the new Magyar Nemzet will be able to retain its readership. Moreover, for the last month or so, we’ve heard about more and more Magyar Nemzet employees abandoning the paper and joining Napi Gazdaság. I assume they are offered higher salaries. And most likely the journalists who switch believe they will have better job security since the future of Napi Gazdaság, given its favored position, is assured, at least for three more years, while this might not be the case with Magyar Nemzet.

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LwiiH
Guest

The interviews are a joke, more like PR pieces. M1 is being used to deliver infomercials for all things Fidesz.

Guest

Not sure how the population can make any good judgments in the current political/media atmosphere there in Hungary. Guess they go simply with their biases which get confirmed in the propaganda meted out.

Perhaps one commentator is right when it was said ‘political analysis is dead’ there in the country. Fidesz and Jobbik look like they’re taking cues from Mr. Putin’s relationship to media: control, control, control.

petofi
Guest

Hungarian politics: a pigsty smells sweet in comparison…

Isn’t Karacsony Gergely the lovely fellow who backtracked on a deal with the MSZP candidate in a run-off a few years back?

In Hungary, that presented no humiliation at all…like water off a ducks back. Sick people: sick country.

And people like Kalman Olga have this Karacsony jerk on their program and ask his opinion! Ridiculous.

Sic transit Hungarica Gloria.

HAJRA MAGYAROK!!!

Alex Kuli
Guest

Picky point: It should be Ildiko Pelcz (nee Gall), shouldn’t it?

Fisher
Guest

Hi Eva,

Thanks for your always excellent articles. I noticed an error in the above, Ramil Safarov is actually from Azerbaijan not Kazakhstan. Given that Armenia and Azerbaijan are still technically at war despite a 20 year ceasefire it is an important detail. And further illustrates the exceptional (lack of) diplomatic skills of the current Orban regime.

Alex Kuli
Guest

Another point: Papcsak did not run against Karacsony in the October 2014 election for District XIV mayor. It was Rozgonyi Zoltán Gábor who lost to Karacsony.

Papcsak decided to run for Parliament rather than make another try for Zuglo mayor. He lost the constituency that includes Zuglo to the “left-wing” candidate in the May 2014 general election, but still managed to snare a parliamentary mandate on the Fidesz list.

Alex Kuli
Guest

And a final point! The murderer whom the Orban administration freed was sent to Azerbaijan, not Kazakhstan.

topo
Guest

Hi Eva,

Sorry but another correction. Karacsony is not a member of LMP. Since 2013 he has been one of the leading figures of Párbeszéd Magyarországért (PM). This being the more progressive party that broke away from LMP. Another article today in Hungary Around the Clock makes the same mistake for Javor Benedek, so you are not alone!

The distinction is important as which one of these two “green” parties gains dominance over the other may shape how future coalitions are put together. PM is open and progressive to working with other left wing and centrist forces and the other is not, as long as it is led by Schiffer Andras.

PM still has a very small presence in opinion polls but Karacsony is gaining increasing visibility through his work in Zuglo, and the fact that Fidesz have decided to start a smear campaign against him displays they see him as a possible long term threat. Last months poll in NOL ,showing who are the most popular politicians in Hungary, had him in second place behind Ader.

Topo

Alex Kuli
Guest

Karácsony Gergely Szilveszter. His parents must have been particularly cruel. I bet they had considered Farsang before settling on Gergely.

spectator
Guest

🙂

István
Guest

Eva I think it is important to discuss of overall circulation decline of print media in Hungary. Here is a link about the decline from 2010 http://www.realdeal.hu/20100514/new-circulation-figures-reveal-hungarian-print-media-just-as-screwed-as-youd-expect/ I doubt the trend has changed at all.

As in the USA the circulation of mass daily newspapers declines and younger people are not reading them, as revenues fall the number of print reporters declines in total. There will come a time in the not too distant future where daily newspapers as we have known them will become very rare, including in Hungary.

Member

@ Alex Kuli

Not very talented to miscredit the fellow for his name. Hi is anyway trying to do some good.

Webber
Guest

I thought Alex’s joke was great! It’s hardly the worst thing that’s been said about Karácsony. It might even make him smile.

Alex Kuli
Guest

Hardly miscrediting him.
I also happen to think Dick Swett was a pretty good US Congressman.

Webber
Guest

Another good one! (though Googly may not like it, and others may need to have it explained before they get it)

spectator
Guest

As I see it the whole performance of the Hungarian “media” is rather a sad affair.

Because I’m away since awhile I browse exclusively the online “papers” – and let me tell you that there is hardly an article without annoying spelling mistakes – for cryin’ out loud, there is the goddamn spell checker, use it!! – and I already gave up on the grammar and the style, it simply horrible!

Having said that, I can hardly imagine how the printed media works nowadays, not to mention the kind which reaching the widest target group, but it couldn’t be that much better, could it?

No wonder that people living in blissful ignorance in the countryside – and vote accordingly.

Is there any segment of the Hungarian way of life which resembles to the European?

ze
Guest

Somebody asked the other day what proves that the Western world has gradually moved to the political right in the last few decades.

This is a great piece about some aspects – in German.

http://www.zeit.de/kultur/2015-04/linke-woche-zukunft-kapitalismus-morozov

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