Hungary’s press is no longer free

Freedom House’s latest annual report on freedom of the press worldwide was released on April 28. The assessment of the Hungarian situation was so devastating that the best excuse the Hungarian government media could come up with was that Freedom House is under the thumb of George Soros. So, what do we expect?

Those who are familiar with Hungarian media affairs had predicted way ahead of the publication of the report that Hungary’s standing had suffered to such an extent that its listing as a country with a “free” press might be jeopardized. Pál Dániel Rényi of 444.hu described 2016 as the “darkest year of the free press in Hungary.” This unusually sharp turn of events began with the March 2015 rift between Viktor Orbán and his old friend Lajos Simicska, which resulted in an editorial shift at Simicska’s holdings: Magyar Nemzet, Hír TV, Class FM, Metropo, and Lánchíd Rádió. The government spent the rest of the year trying to strangle Simicska’s media and simultaneously set about to create a new government media empire practically from scratch. By now, the pro-government media presence is larger than ever before. Almost all of the regional papers are in government-friendly hands, and even such formerly respectable organs as Origo and Figyelő are now part of the Fidesz stable. The venerable Népszabadság ceased publication. “Public” radio and television now broadcast brazen government propaganda.

The Hungarian government’s expansion of its own media resources at the expense of independent media was of great concern to the compilers of Freedom House’s “Freedom of the Press, 2017.” Hungary figures large in this latest assessment. It is one of the countries that saw the biggest declines in press freedom in 2016. Mind you, Poland and Turkey did even worse, but Hungary found itself in the company of Tajikistan, Congo, South Sudan, Maldives, Bolivia, and Serbia. Hungary is also mentioned under the rubric “Milestones of Decline” together with Venezuela, Turkey, and Poland. Although Hungary’s media freedom has been steadily losing ground since 2010, not until 2016 was Hungary considered to be a country with an “only partly free” press.

In the ranking of 199 countries, Hungary is 84th, along with Montenegro. It tied with Greece for being the worst in the European Union with a total score of 44. (The lower the score, the freer the press.) Even Bulgaria (42) and Romania (38) have better scores than Hungary. While the freest presses in Europe can be found in Norway (with a total score of 8), the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, and Switzerland, Hungary is near the bottom of the heap. It outranks only Turkey (76), Macedonia (64), Bosnia and Herzegovina (51), Albania (51), Serbia (49), and Kosovo (48). Even if geographically speaking Hungary is considered to be part of Central Europe, culturally it shows a close affinity to countries of the Balkans.

So far the Orbán government has been silent on the report, unlike a month ago when the whole cabinet “repudiated the charges” that the state of democracy in Hungary had deteriorated. The charges, they said, were bogus because the organization is financed by George Soros. The office of the government spokesman at that time claimed that the Hungarian press is perfectly free because all political opinions can be found in the Hungarian media. “In Hungary freedom of speech is undiminished and Hungarian democracy is powerful, blossoming and alive.” Lajos Kósa, head of the Fidesz parliamentary group, was especially offended by Romania’s being ahead of Hungary on that list. He came up with the following “joke.” Two Romanian politicians are having a conversation. One of them says to the other: “Did you hear that we have improved our corruption score by five points?” The other answers: “Yes, I’ve heard. It wasn’t cheap.”

As for Freedom House being financed by George Soros, it should be noted that toward the more than $2 million annual budget of the organization, Open Society Foundations contributed just a little over $5,000 last year.

But it seems that facts don’t matter–even though today we learned from Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó that “now is the time that facts will be more important than opinions” in the European Union. Which brings me to Pesti Srácok‘s interview with the head of the Fidesz delegation in the European Parliament, András GyürkHere are a few of Gyürk’s “facts.” (Keep in mind that he was the first signatory to the mea culpa letter the Fidesz MEPs sent to their colleagues in the European People’s Party.) We learn from Gyürk that it wasn’t the Hungarian government that began the attack on Central European University but it was the “Soros network” that picked this particular time to attack the Hungarian government. The reason for the timing is the “fact” that “forces supporting illegal immigration want to force their will on the whole of the European Union this summer.” He doesn’t divulge who these forces are, but from the rest of the interview one gets the impression that Gyürk suspects that “the secret negotiations” between Jean-Claude Juncker and George Soros have something to do with this nefarious plot to import masses of “illegal immigrants into Europe.” Gyürk creates a conspiracy theory out of nothing. Pitted against these evil characters is Viktor Orbán, the savior of Europe, who must be eliminated because he stands in the way of the enemies of the continent. And while he is at it, Gyürk charges the Soros network with fomenting anti-government protests in Hungary just like it did in Ukraine and Macedonia. These are all lies.

But as I just learned this morning listening to four journalists talking about the habitual lying of Fidesz politicians, the concept of falsehood doesn’t really exist in Fidesz mental maps. Gábor Bencsik, brother of the notorious András Bencsik of Magyar Demokrata, was one of the journalists present. One of the participants pointed out that Viktor Orbán for the first time ever admitted during the plenary session of the European Parliament that the dreaded migrants didn’t want to stay in Hungary. With this he implicitly acknowledged that he lied when he plastered the whole country with posters about migrants taking away Hungarian jobs. At this point Bencsik said: “You keep talking about lying. What nitpicking.” The Fidesz team has built a communication network based on lies, a fact that is becoming increasingly evident to the politicians of the European Union.

Today Péter Szijjártó read the riot act to Johannes Hahn, EU commissioner of European neighborhood policy and enlargement negotiations and deputy chairman of the Austrian People’s party, because he dared to criticize Viktor Orbán’s “Stop Brussels!” campaign. “We expect respect for Hungarians,” he demanded. But I’m afraid it is difficult to respect habitual liars and cheats, and unfortunately the Orbán government is rife with such people.

May 1, 2017
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Doggo
Guest

The biggest and most powerful media company in Hungary is RTL in 100% German ownership. It alone owns about 50% of the whole TV market and constantly attacks the Hungarian government and supports the opposition narrative. Was this fact mentioned by the highly partisan Freedom House organization which openly accepts money from George Soros?

It is not surprising at all that Soros linked organizations would try their very best to defame and libel Hungary regardless of the facts. They are trying the same thing in the United States.

Pretending that President Trump is some sort of devil and not the legitimate 45th POTUS. Soros funded outlets like Media Matters openly harass Trump supporting media personalities and media companies.

Istvan
Guest

Doggo you are energetic I will give you that much.

Zsuzsa
Guest

actually the name would suggest he remains motionless and quiet. to escape detection. har har

Zsuzsa
Guest

or a dog

Guest

Doggo is the “one-tailed dog”.

Zsuzsa
Guest

it also means “he remains motionless and quiet” cops use the term. which makes it all the funnier.

LwiiH
Guest

Seriously? Should we remind the people you are trying to confuse with your posts that RTL has also been tamed. And this one argument that one person in the entire world can take on a country is one only the ill informed or insane could possibly believe. So, from that I would conclude either some one is paying you to post, you are lying, or I’ll informed, or insane. Pick one!

Observer
Guest

At least three of those, I suppose, because :
– Lying is part and parcel, Fid form of life
– Insane not, rather damaged soul like most fideszniks
– Ill informed is standard, but dogdog reads HS, so
– Must be paid to push this BS.

Ergo the average troll.

Guest

Doggy, you don’t remember the special tax laws that Fidesz designed for tv companies, especially for RTL and TV2?
They broke TV2 that way and it was sold – RTL barely survived, because its owners did not give in.
Do you see a system there like in the constant harassing of Clubradio, the big supermarket chains etc?
It’s ok in your opinion to make laws explicitly designed against some companies/people?
It’s all been discussed here before – we are not stupid ignorant Hungarians here who believe anything their “Great Leader” and his minions tell them – you’re out of luck there …
Facts are still facts – for everybody to see!

Ferenc
Guest

Wow, hallelujah the situation in the Hungarian media!!
There is ONE, 1, EGY, foreign owned, TV station, which “constantly attacks the Hungarian government and supports the opposition narrative”. And even more it seems to be independent from Soros!

Doggy, if you have so much time to overload this blog with your comments, I kindly ask you to make a comparison of the situation in the Hungarian media. Let’s say between 2009 and now 2017, regarding ownership, editorial view, finances (advertisements/selling) , etc. and report here back in the comments. Curious for your view in this matter. Thanks in advance!

Member
“The biggest and most powerful media company in Hungary is RTL in 100% German ownership. It alone owns about 50% of the whole TV market” I’d be interested in knowing how you calculate 50%. I assume you are including cable-only fare like Cool TV, Muzsika TV and Film+? Indeed, those channels are relentless in their attacks on Orban. Let’s confine ourselves to broadcasts that deal with politics. If we look at RTL’s flagship news program, Hirado, it got a 28.8% share for the week of April 17-23. TV2’s news program, Tenyek, got a 20.7% share the same week. Other competitors include M1, ATV, HirTV, Echo TV and others. Does it really follow that RTL Klub controls 50% of the market for political news? I’m also interested in knowing why you say RTL “constantly attacks” the government. Can you cite any studies? Also, what is the definition of “attack?” Orban’s usual definition is, “They said something I don’t like.” It is a news station’s job to be tough on politicians. In fact, when RTL Klub’s journalists went into “attack mode” a couple of years back (due to Orban’s abusive tax laws, mentioned above), it was cause for dismay among true news… Read more »
Doggo
Guest
I am including the whole media company which is German owned, not just a single channel. The company has many channels and many programs which were used as political hate machines in Hungarian politics. It’s influence is much larger than simply the share currently on a single channel. If they wanted they can repurpose all of their channels into anti-Hungarian news in a couple of months. The threat is always their so long as a German corporation owns so much of the Hungarian media. But even if we use your lesser number the threat is still substantial. So thank you for admitting that a single channel gets 28.8% of share on a single German owned channel. Even without adding the Olga Kalman’s HirTV or ATV into the mix that 28.8% is completely German owned programming following German globalist corporatist interests. Do you find it odd that Hungary is attacked by this Soros linked Freedom House NGO when you yourself admit that 28.8% of the news is owned by German corporations? I wonder whether German globalits corporatist ownership of a huge part of the Hungarian media was discussed in the FHouse report? Or was that fact concealed because foreign corporate interests… Read more »
LwiiH
Guest

If the Hungarian media has any problems it is due to the massive Fidesz ownership which opens the door to political interference in Hungarian internal politics

Guest

An alternative (actiually several would be better) is sorely needed because all the government owned M tv channels are like North Korean State TV!
My wife never watches them – one of the few exceptions is a “cook show” on Saturdays …

Question for Doggy:
How much media is state owned in other countries?
Do you remember how many journalists lost their jobs when Fidesz took over?

Member

Wolfi – While your outrage is understandable, the Socialists are also guilty when it comes to dismissing journalists for political reasons. Perhaps not equally guilty, but guilty.

The problem is that very few people in Hungary have ever exhibited any kind of demand for media integrity – least of all the viewers and readers.

Member

Doggo, you need to learn how to read statistics and understand “share.” Perhaps you might want to go back to high school, or if you live in Hungary, find a Western-based correspondence course (yes, I am saying that Hungarian education sucks).

Member

“it is difficult to respect habitual liars and cheats, and unfortunately the Orbán government is rife with such people”

Starting with Orbán himself.

Who would have thought that one could get away with such blatant and impudent mendacity and criminality, right out in the open, and within the EU?

Of course, without his brainwashed and brain-dead faithful as well as his venal vassals and fellow-sociopaths, he could never get away with it.

But what are we clucking about? Someone very much like that is now sitting in the White House, surrounded by an equally evil entrourage, and that is happening right out in the open too, with far more disastrous consequences for us all…

Member

…without his brainwashed and brain-dead faithful as well as his venal vassals and fellow-sociopaths — and his doggoed sprolls…

Name
Guest

https://twitter.com/RealJamesWoods/status/859233233363283968

” Is @GeorgeSoros Satan or something? He’s got his hooks into everybody. How do we stop this #vermin? “

Guest

This just proves that (at least some …) ‘Muricans are the dumbest people on Earth!
Those constipation theories would be funny – if people didn’t believe them …
If you search snopes.com, the best debunking site imho, you’ll find almost a hundred (!) or more fake news stories about Soros and his “control of the US”!
Unbelievable what crap those stupid ‘Muricans put on the web!

Disclaimer:
I know that there are many honest, intelligent people in the USA (personally know a few …) but the number of redneck idiots never ceases to astound me too – the most lunatic ideas will be believed by these country bumpkins, just like in Hungary.
And most of them call themselves Christians even, loving their country – hating everybody else?

Guest

” Is @GeorgeSoros Satan or something?”

Here is the true answer.

Soros created the world and all it’s countries with one exception. God created Hungary. When Soros realized that Hungary was vastly superior to the countries he himself had created, he became jealous and decided to destroy Hungary. First he sent the Mongols to kill all the Hungarians, but their khan died and they went home before they had finished the job. Then Soros sent the Turks to depopulate Hungary by capturing all the boys, but they overstretched themselves and had to leave a half finished job. Finally Soros sent Orban, and he always wins, so he will probably be he last Hungarian living in Hungary.

Pole
Guest

we in Poland stil at least have a free press but new planned anti-foreign owned press law will destroy it at least partially this year.

Please stop discuss Doggo his only goal is to divert discussion from important matters. Discussion with him only lowers level of discussion on this blog.

petofi
Guest

100% correct.

I’m amazed how many people indulge Doggo’s stupidities with an answer…

Ferenc
Guest

Made a new infogram: Freedom of the Press 2002-17 for the V4-countries
https://infogr.am/v4___freedom_of_the_press_2002_17_fh

The situation over the years in Hungary: 2002-09 stable / 2010-12 strong down / 2013-14 ‘halftime break’ / 2015-17strong down again.

Feel also very sorry for the Polish: 15 years ago they had the most free press from the V4 countries, but from then on slowly going down till 2015, and from 2015 on strong down (like copying Hungary 2010-12).
Really wondering if there are hidden (kept secret) connections between / advisers in the two responsible governments. For my feeling it’s too much copy/paste policies to be really independent………

Ferenc
Guest

PS: the rating is inverted from positive to negative to give a better understanding – so lesser press freedom gives down going graph

Pole
Guest

I have to agree with the 2017 free press report conclusions regarding Poland. All points are valid and decline is visible but still in compare with Hungary we are in heavens. Independent of government critical big terrestrial TV stations, leading nation wide critical everyday newspapers and weeklies of opinion and critical leading internet portals or independent regional press. ONLY question is how long it will last …

Pole
Guest

About polish-hungarian connections polish government top advisers every month are visiting Hungary and make no secret about it. Hungary is role model in its autocracy.

Ferenc
Guest

Didn’t notice about such in the Hungarian press.
Which advisers are meeting which Hungarians? Do you know names?

Pole
Guest

I know about Adam Bielan. He’s supporter of Law and Order inclusion into EPL that in his view gives Orban special protection in EU against EU Commision.

petofi
Guest

I would guess that the connection is in their respective interior ministries which are, in all likelihood, still infiltrated by the Russkies.

Observer
Guest

Proof no. 1002 that this regime is going fascist.

The narrative of this Gyurk character is almost verbatim from the communist times circa early 1960s.

Member

What narrative? Can you comment or supply a link? Please.

Observer
Guest

Albrecht

The link to pestisracok in the article above.

Member

Transatlantic Symmetries

The EU has no way to rid itself of a malign, corrupt, incompetent madman, sustained by an evil entourage, who has managed to get himself elected by a minority of deplorables in a gerrymandered electoral system.

The EU has no way to rid itself of a malign, corrupt, incompetent moron, sustained by an evil entourage, who has managed to get himself elected by a minority of deplorables in a gerrymandered electoral system.
http://users.ecs.soton.ac.uk/harnad/skywritings/serendipity_admin.php?

Member

comment image

Istvan
Guest
Stevan the EU has not even been able to agree on a replacement for the Luxembourgish drunken enabler of international tax evaders Jean-Claude Juncker. Nor can the EU do better than to select Frans Timmermans as the first vice president of the EU Commission, a leader who told the Dutch public in 2014 they would find those responsible in the Ukraine for shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 killing 194 Dutch citizens and bring them to justice. Needless to say Timmermans achieved none of this even though a report in September 2016 by a team of prosecutors from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine directly implicated Russia. Russia, vetoed a Dutch-backed request to the United Nations to establish an international tribunal. Russia’s Constitution, prohibits the extradition of Russian citizens to stand trial abroad so Putin’s answer was a simple no. In April of 2016 Timmermans and others attempted to get the Dutch people to support an EU trade agreement with Ukraine to bolster that nation which the Russians opposed. It was rejected by Dutch voters apparently fearful of Russian retaliation even though the Netherlands is basically self-sufficient for its gas because of the Groningen North Sea fields. The pattern… Read more »
Member
Yes, Istvan, Putin is even worse than Orbump (mainly because he can get away with it, and they can’t, yet: would you put your hand in the fire that they are of the character that wouldn’t, if they could?). But what’s your point? Yes, EU leaders leave much to be desired — but surely you don’t mean that it’s anywhere near a toss-up. Hence it’s not even relevant (just as the trivia dividing the Hungarian democratic are irrelevant — or, rather, ought to be!). Yes, greed and vested interests are a malign force everywhere — but that’s why the non-deplorables vote for democracy, freedom, human rights, checks and balances, the rule of law. If 3-4 minutes of watching and hearing Orban and 30 seconds of watching or hearing Trump is not enough to make someone see them for the cheap, contemptible con-men they are, then the only descriptor other than deplorable for anyone who would support them is demented. There’s no wiggle-room for decency there. Zero. Years of reading your postings, Istvan, leaves no doubt that (despite the occasional inner conflict between the man-of-arms and the man-of-principle) you are a decent person. But it’s a mistake, I think, to imagine… Read more »
Istvan
Guest
Stevan the point is that the EU itself and its internally elected leadership on the commission is a big part of the problem relating to Fidesz and Orban. The confused nationalists that vote for a Trump or an Orban find some of their own self value through their leader which they identify with their nation. I have an understanding of patriotism to a fault, it’s a deep emotion that has irrational aspects to it and in fact can cause people to do both amazingly heroic things and deeply disturbing murderous things. PM Orban is playing all of these feelings to alienate the Hungarian people from the EU and the more liberal values they represent. But the professional politicians of the EU, like Juncker, profess to promote a super state that is not linked to a national identity and they are easy pickings for Orban. Waving the EU flag will not make Orban go away nor make the nationalists of Hungary stop voting for him. But EU promoters in Hungary have themselves aligned with a dangerous ally in the professional politicians on the EU Commission who will throw liberal values in a “emerging democracy” like Hungary over board to maintain unity.… Read more »
Member

All no doubt true, but in this context, criticizing the EU is like criticizing the Hungarian democratic opposition, or Hillary Clinton, given the alternatives. It is simply beside the point. (And it plays into the hands of those with much more sinister motivation.)

Member

[Re-posting: something went wrong with editing software]

Orbump, Or Transatlatic Symmetries

The EU has no way to rid itself of a malign, corrupt, incompetent madman, sustained by an evil entourage, who has managed to get himself elected by a minority of deplorables in a gerrymandered electoral system.

The US has no way to rid itself of a malign, corrupt, incompetent moron, sustained by an evil entourage, who has managed to get himself elected by a minority of deplorables in a gerrymandered electoral system.

comment image

wrfree
Guest

Magyarorszag looks as if accountability will be hard to apply to those public servants as they continue to bag media outlets. How far will it go?

Without a free press ‘secrets’ will probably have their say and worm in on policy development. That murky ‘hidden’ government just could continue on its way revelling in a power that simply dismisses the electorate.

Member

Éva, it’s odd that I had to sign out of wordpress and then sign back in again to get the editing function to work. It’s ok now…

wpDiscuz