The state of media freedom in Hungary as the citizens see it

Yesterday I wrote very briefly about a fascinating public opinion poll conducted by the Publicus Research Institute between October 11 and 13. Thanks to the staff of The Budapest Sentinel the Institute’s findings are now available in English.

In my last post I indicated that I was comforted by the good news that this poll conveys: Hungarians, despite intense government propaganda to the contrary, know full well that media freedom is trampled on more savagely today than at any other time in the history of the Third Republic. Yet in December 2015 Orbán had the temerity to claim that “the freedom of thought, speech, and the press in Hungary is more colorful, more encompassing, and more profound than in countries to the west of us.”

Today, after thousands of people had gathered to demand media freedom, the cynical Gergely Gulyás, one of the deputy chairmen of Fidesz, had the gall to express his bafflement at the purpose of the demonstration.

The original poll can be found on the webpage of the Publicus Research Institute.

♦ ♦ ♦

The Publicus Institution, at the behest of Vasárnapi Hírek (Sunday News) conducted a survey of 1000 people representative of public opinion with regard to their attitudes towards freedom of the press and their opinion about the suspension of Népszabadság. The majority of respondents believe that in Hungary today the press is not independent of the government, even though nine out of ten respondents believe press freedom to be important.  85 percent of Hungarians have heard of the suspension of Népszabadság, but only one-third have heard that it had come under the influence of a company close to Fidesz.  Almost every second person surveyed said they read Népszabadság or either regularly or intermittently.  Most respondents believe the reason the paper is no longer being published is because it criticized the government and governing party politicians and because Fidesz limits press freedom.  Two-thirds of respondents believe that currently Fidesz has the greatest influence over media, and nearly as many believe that of all the governments today, it is the Fidesz government which has greatest influence over media. Nearly two-thirds of respondents believe that the free press is seriously limited in Hungary today, and that state media coverage of the news is one-sided.

The majority of those asked believe that the press is not independent of the government in Hungary today.  On a scale of one to five, the situation of domestic press freedom scored 2.7, meaning Hungary’s media is judged as not being free.  It is rather MSZP voters who do not find the press to be free and independent.  On average their score came to 2.1.  Of all the social groups surveyed, only Fidesz voters thought the press to be free—their score averaged 3.4.


Nearly nine (87%) out of ten respondents think it is important that the free press remain independent of the government.  On this question every societal group surveyed agrees.


85 percent of those surveyed had heard that Népszabadság had suspended its operations, but only one-third had heard that it had come under the influence of a company close to Fidesz.

Almost every second (43%) of respondents said they read either the print or online version of Népszabadság.  The print version was rather read by MSZP voters, those over 60, and those with college diplomas.  The online version was mostly read by MSZP and Jobbik voters, and people under 45 with high school or college diplomas.


The most common reason given by those surveyed for why the paper is no longer being published is because it criticized the government and government politicians (29 percent), or because Fidesz imposes limits on the free press (23 percent).  Out of ten people, two (22 percent) list among the cause the fact that it was loss-making.

However, the final reason is only mentioned frequently (37 percent) by Fidesz voters.  Among MSZP, Jobbik and uncertain voters the most important cause for the suspension was that it was critical of the government, the governing party and its members (53, 35 and 28 percent, respectively).  Discounting Fidesz voters, every societal group examined believes limitations on the free press to be the second most important cause for the suspension (22 and 28 percent, respectively).


Two-thirds of respondents (67 percent) believe that presently Fidesz has the largest influence over the media, and altogether 2 percent think the left-wing does.  In this question every societal group examined had a similar opinion.  The Fidesz influence is best seen by Jobbik and MSZP voters (77 and 72 percent, respectively), while the left-wing influence is mostly seen by MSZP and Fidesz voters (8 and 5 percent, respectively).


Nearly two-thirds (59 percent) believe it is under Fidesz that the government exercises the largest influence over the press.  Only 16 percent think that it was under the MSZP government.

Even Fidesz voters agree (46 percent to 25 percent opposed), but especially MSZP voters see this (75 percent to 20 percent opposed).


Nearly two-thirds of those questioned (59 percent) believe that in Hungary today the free press is greatly limited, and that state media is one-sided.  A similar proportion (58 percent) think this is the case of the news reaching the most people.

A small majority of Fidesz voters agree that the freedom of the press is greatly limited in public media (45 percent to 43 percent opposed), while the vast majority of MSZP, Jobbik and undecided voters (70 percent, 69 percent, and 60 percent, respectively) believe this to be the case.

More details about the results of the study can be found in the Sunday News appearing on Saturday.

October 16, 2016
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October 16, 2016 8:48 pm

London Calling!

Hungarian polls can be so illogical to a Westerner!

It must be Kadarism! People are still ‘good little communists’ in the happy barrack.

So many appear to give the ‘right’ answers to pollsters yet there is a massive chasm between paper ‘dreams’ – and political reality.

If they really believed their answers, would Parliamentary representation be as it is – especially with, for example, the state of the hospitals and the plethora of empty football stadiums?

The reality is as long as she’s got big breasts, a lovely body and a scandalous celebrity ‘b’ status – in Blikk – Hungarians don’t give a hoot about press freedom or integrity.

Ditto TV

October 16, 2016 10:12 pm

Public opinion has changed drastically since the general elections of 2014.

October 16, 2016 9:20 pm

If the data is reliable and there shouldn’t be any reason why not it is evident that Magyars indeed see limitations of press freedom in the country. Mr. Gergely apparently has to be sleepwalking as he sifts through the data.

What the electorate does with the information remains to be seen. What will happen of course is that the powers will urge doubt to those who question and fear. And it is also there where the electorate needs to clarify within themselves individually and as a body as how to handle and respond to that constant pressure which takes them off the scent so to speak. In a way they have to be better bloodhounds.

October 17, 2016 1:26 am

When Orbán claims that the Hungarian press under his command is “more colorful, more encompassing, and more profound…” than in the rest of Europe, he must have his buddy Lovas in mind, as for example in this article to the world:

countries to the west of us.”

October 17, 2016 2:07 am
When Orbán claims that the Hungarian press is now „more colorful, more encompassing, and more profound….” than in other European countries, he must be referring to hack journalists like his neo Nazi friends, Zsolt Bayer, and István Lovas, Brussels correspondent for Magyar Nemzet, mouthpiece for the Fidesz government. For those who have not seen it, this is a letter Lovas wrote to the world at large, expressing his opinion of Orbán critics. It illustrates perfectly the sort of journalism Orbán approves of. It is first in Hungarian and then in English, and makes fascinating reading: As Orbán says, the language is certainly more “colourful” than in other European countries, though not the shades I would repeat in any civilized company, and only if you think filthy language is acceptable. And definitely profound, as in deeply full of hatred, or perhaps this was a typo and Orbán actually meant profane, and completely lacking in respect towards “the world at large”, which he has sullied by such a missive. As for “all encompassing” – that too, since it includes anyone and everyone who dares to criticse our Führer. And with this style of „ journalistic literature” it is also clear why… Read more »
October 17, 2016 3:00 am

Under Orban’s direction, the Press Council (or whatever it is called) started the ball rolling by imposing a ‘Kalvaria’ of suffering on Klub Radio after 2010, so that its “poisonous” freely- expressed opinion can now only be heard in Budapest. And the restrictions have continued – the loss of Radio France International and the BBC World Service from 92,1 FM was followed by the removal of the BBC World Service news from Classic Radio immediately after Orban’s Hungary was mentioned adversely in news reports. Newspapers are regulated by the tool of advertising funds and now the precipitous closure of Nepszabadsag…

As to the quote of Orban on media freedom above, it is Lies, Lies and more Lies. It seems Hungary is now accustomed to the lies of Orban, the lies of Rogan, the lies of Lazar, the lies of Gulyas. Our daily bread.

Alex Kuli
Alex Kuli
October 17, 2016 4:22 am

According to the BBC, the decision to halt broadcasting on 92.1 FM was its own. BBC execs said it was expensive, and more and more people were listening to Internet radio rather than sitting next to the wireless.

BBC ended transmissions in a number of other countries at the same time as they ended in Hungary.

I have no clue as to why Class Radio stopped running BBC news bulletins.

October 17, 2016 10:41 am

If illiberalism is supposedly ‘scientific’ I would suppose lying has to have a ‘half-life’ for its existence in a society Thing is how long can a country exist on lies from its government spokespersons? If we look around us things fall apart pretty regularly in the ‘scientific’ world.

October 17, 2016 5:22 pm

Control is enhanced by other incedious tricks too: the state news agency (a news doctoring workshop) supplies its “news” to all smaller, country media for FREE . Guess what do they choose?
So the regime floods the country with its propaganda using taxpayers’ money.

October 17, 2016 5:58 am

2016 October : the most frequent stereotype about Hungary in the world is


Orban, “te tetted ezt” !!

Type into Google’s search engine: “why is Hungary ….” – the search engine suggests the most frequently typed in complements in this order:

A. so racist
B. against refugees
C. called Hungary
D. so good at the olympics
E. so cheap
F. not using the euro
G. so small

Most frequent stereotypes about other countries:

poor: Ukraine, Moldavia, Bulgaria, Latvia, Spain, Portugal
broke: Greece

rich: Norway, Germany, Luxembourg
happy: Denmark

Catholic: Poland
Atheist: Estonia, Czechia

not in NATO: Austria, Finland

racist: Hungary

October 17, 2016 8:36 am

Former minister Koka explains to current propaganda minister Rogan.

Koka writes:

“It does make a difference whether

you take a helicopter ride from money you earned in a free market
or from money you stole from the Hungarians

you enter politics as a wealthy man
or you become immensely rich as a politician
[Koka vs Rogan, Gyurcsany vs Orban]

you fall because of you stupidity
or the newspaper falls that dares to write about this.”

Ferenc Kecskeméti
Ferenc Kecskeméti
October 17, 2016 3:26 pm

Guess what, nobody cares. The communists did it so Antal Rogan is entitled to it too. Janos Koka is at least as repulsive as Antal Rogan is so I don’t see why he had to speak up. They look at Koka and people are immediately reminded please never again these corrupt liberals. These obnoxious, self-righteous billionaires never again thank you very much. The communists were in power for 50 years it’s time to get used to the idea that commies and their allies are on the losing side of history. The liberals are now finally riding the famous szopóroller. It’s actually quite funny, hahahah.

October 17, 2016 5:29 pm

Please read this carefully – very revealing , very vile, if you had any doubts, that is.

October 17, 2016 11:30 am

Dear Tappanch,
Stereotypes are hard to change but are often due to masochistics attitudes.
My wife is hungarian born. Where she works ( a large university hospital) her collegues used to say hungarian racist etc etc…
Some time ago … but now they say : we should do the same as hungary and austria otherwise our country is disintegrating…

October 17, 2016 11:36 am

As I read this blog, I am continuously amazed at the guilessness of most comments. And as such, they can never hope to understand Hungarians who are
as devious as their leaders. The whole Hungarian firmament is one of duplicity, so readers ought not to wax philosophical that public polls point to greater disagreement with the machinations of Orbanistan. Not true. In the main, the constituency is clever enough to hide their agreement….but come the next elections, Orban and Fidesz will, magically, rule again.

It’s a grave mistake to give Hungarian society a ‘free pass’ as to their innocence…

October 17, 2016 11:41 am

As I have said before, Hungarians have descended from the suburbs of Sodom and Gomorrah…

October 17, 2016 1:15 pm

Why not from downtown?

October 17, 2016 2:18 pm

Re: ‘It’s a grave mistake to give Hungarian society a ‘free pass’ as to their innocence’

Perhaps if I lived there I would understand better that seeming ‘complicity’. There must be something in the ‘viz’ to explain that ‘push-pull’ relationship of governed to the governors. All I know is that the governors have a hard time coming to grips with ‘responsibilities’. You’d think the past ages she’s lived in would give the wherewithal to deal with challenges and realities.

October 17, 2016 12:03 pm

Petofi ,
Budapest compared to Sodoma and Gomorra !
There are much worse places in Europe !

October 17, 2016 12:20 pm


Worse places–yes; but not with the pretensions of Hungarians.

October 17, 2016 1:18 pm

“There are much worse places in Europe !”

Tell us where.

Giuseppe Riccardi
October 17, 2016 1:37 pm

@jean p

Les banlieux of some french towns,
Greece popular areas, southern italy increasing unemployment cities…
You can add more because you sure know
Some more…
Hungary has big political problems but ( as poland and other eastern countries ) is slowly improving its economical situation but Europe is hard hit by unemployment and wild unlimited immigration.

October 17, 2016 2:52 pm

Next will be no-go-zones in Hungary – actually the Parliament was already so defined …

Guiseppe, do you really believe what you’re telling us?

Hungary already has problems with “over-employment” – qualified workers are hard to find because they all went as “economic migrants” to DACH etc …

And those unemployed who stay – why can’t they get jobs?

Hint: It’s their (non existent) education …

Why are there so many illiterate people in Hungary ?

October 17, 2016 6:13 pm

Giuseppe R,
You’re right , there are other bad places, but they have different set of problem. Main difference : they are not so poor, in general and their governments are trying to solve the problems.
In Hungary the government IS the main problem.
You are wrong, the economy of H is deteriorating: the country has been dropping behind even with record high EU finds absorbed in 2014-2015, and with the regime doctoring the figures as much as they can.

October 17, 2016 6:37 pm

If all the “official” news coming from Hungarian state media (tv, radio, press agency) is basically just governmental propaganda, can economical data coming from similar working and directed state organisations just be taken to be true? Or should all of this be considered to be fake?
Problem is how to check the officially provided economical information?
Serious investigation into actual economics could be a real challenge for experienced business reporters! Anybody here willing to go for that challence?

October 18, 2016 1:19 am

Fidesz people now control Hungary’s Central Statistical Office (KSH), as well as the National Bank. None of the economic figures can be trusted. Not one.

We all know that lying about the state of the economy is stupid, but it can go on for years and years without being detected. Figures are gathered by a country’s officials. Figures are published by that country’s officials. Those figures are the only thing economists outside the country can rely on.

A government can lie about the state of the economy right to the point of bankruptcy, at which point the lies can no longer work because collapse is imminent.

Remember Greece?

October 18, 2016 4:34 am

It is a difficult task as some basic data, which only the local stat office can provide, may be corrupted or falsified.

Look up an earlier post here “Hungarian Economy – How much smoke and mirrors?”

October 18, 2016 1:21 am

Greece popular areas…. Southern Italy…
Been to both. Never had any troubles, other than people trying to sell me things, or asking for money.
Giuseppe, try the area around Kőbánya-Kispest train station. Next visit the area around the market in Kispest, where all the huge housing estates are.

October 17, 2016 3:11 pm

Totally OT (or not?):

Did you read about O’s plans of expansion for the Hungarian armed forces? Looks incredulous!
Based on his remarks, we can expect the following changes:

A new reserve military staff system would be launched in January 2017.
The goal is to have a voluntary company in each of the 197 main districts.
In other words, a total of 20,000 reserve military staff are to be trained over the next few years.
The existing ten garrisons will be the foundation for the new training bases.
A government decision to this end has already been made, only a detailed schedule awaits approval.

Where is the money for this supposed to come from?

October 17, 2016 5:46 pm

Orban is again picking up some dated idea from the past,: I bet this will be his version of the “munkásőrség”, the workers guard of he communist regime. Or the better known SA browshirts.
Not expensive at All, just an AK47 and some ideological brainwashing.
God save Hungary,!

October 17, 2016 4:04 pm

Interestingly the undecided voters are more like Fidesz in their propensity to read Népszabadsag and the farthest away from MSZP voters in this regard. And the fact that Jobbik voters were so – well, relatively – likely to read Népszabadsag (much more so than voters with any other party preference) lends credence to the theory that many Jobbik voters used to be MSZP voters. Also, interestingly népszabadsag or were read by younger people (mostly because of I guess – older people in Hungary don’t use internet especially outside Budapest) and that fact that Jobbik voters were so avid readers may have to do with the fact that young people in general (who read nd use internet more often) are more likely to be Jobbik voters than older folks who don’t use internet.

October 17, 2016 4:17 pm

older people in Hungary don’t use internet especially outside Budapest
That’s nonsense!

Of course it depends on the intellectual level – my wife and her sister have been internet users for ages, of course helped by their children which whom they communicate via facebook, skype etc …

And they are both over 70 years old!

October 17, 2016 4:45 pm

wolfi, obviously I know that many such people use the internet. That said, the percentage of Hungarian internet users who is over 60 years of age is 10% of the total Hungarian 5.5m regular users (over 60 people make up close to 25% of the general population). The internet penetration rate now stands at 65%. This difference (about 40% for the over 60 cohort vs. 65% in the general population) is significant and can easily explain why the older folks didn’t read as much – to make up for this this difference the younger internet users would have to have a penetration rate of about 80% and they as an age group are much more likely to vote Jobbik than older people.

October 17, 2016 6:24 pm

Time to get one thing straight: Hungarians don’t ‘use’ or ‘understand’ those elements that would bring them face to face with their own duplicity.