Russian influence on the Hungarian “government-organized media”

In the last few months I have noticed a growing interest in the spread of “fake news” in the government-sponsored media, which Péter Krekó of Political Capital calls “government-organized media.” This is an important topic, given the government’s power over these media outlets and the amount of money it spends to keep them alive. It is a well-known fact that all regional papers are in the hands of pro-Fidesz oligarchs and that their content is provided from the center. Excellent graphs in an article published by Átlátszó at the end of November show the preponderance of government media. Through its daily and weekly papers, internet sites, and radio and television networks, Fidesz-government propaganda reaches 8.7 million people, whereas critical voices get to only 3.1 million. The only media surface where there is more or less parity is the internet, where 50% of the sites are government critical as opposed to 37% pro-Fidesz sites.

It would take a great deal more study of the “government-organized media” before one could give a full picture of how it is structured and what its end-goal is in spreading fake news. An incredible number of news items and opinion pieces appear in solidly Fidesz publications, such as Magyar Idők, Magyar Hírlap, and Demokrata, in which real and fake news are intertwined. The fake news items originate mainly in Russia and the United States.

Russian news and propaganda comes via English-language channels like Russia Today and Sputnik. The former is already available in Hungary for subscribers to a UPC package that includes CNN, BBC, and now RT. But since few people in Hungary speak English and, as László Seres claims, the “Eastern Opening” is not popular, most Hungarians are not being subjected to Russian propaganda directly. Instead, it is right-wing Hungarian journalists who rely on the news provided by these Russian propaganda sources and spread it, primarily through Magyar Idők and Magyar Hírlap.

A few months ago the rumor circulated that RT will start a Hungarian-language TV network, but this was just talk. Péter Krekó is right: to establish such a network would be a total waste of money since the Hungarian government is serving up Russian propaganda quite willingly. As for Seres’s claim that the majority of Hungarians are against the “Eastern Opening,” this might be true, but there is a large minority that is passionately pro-Russian and admires Vladimir Putin to no end. The other day both Magyar Hírlap and Mandiner, an online news site, published opinion pieces expressing their disgust at the European Union’s criticism of the Russian authorities’ decision to bar opposition leader Alexei Navalny from running in next year’s presidential election. The comments that followed these articles showed a great deal of sympathy for Putin and the Russia he has built. This pro-Russian crowd is still a minority, but, with the help of the Hungarian government-sponsored media, pro-Russian sentiment is growing.

Pro-government Hungarian media outlets also rely on internet news sites that practically specialize in fake news and conspiracy theories. Infowars is one of these, which is quoted often enough in Magyar Hírlap and Magyar Idők. Media Bias/Fact Check, which styles itself as “the most comprehensive media bias resource,” describes Infowars as “extreme right.” It is considered to be “a questionable source [that] exhibits one or more of the following: extreme bias, overt propaganda, poor or no sourcing to credible information and/or is fake news.” Infowars uses material from Russian propaganda news sites and from conspiracy websites such as Zero Hedge.

One can also find references in the Fidesz media to Your News Wire, which is described by Media Bias/Fact Check as belonging to the “conspiracy-pseudoscience category,” which may publish unverifiable information that is not always supported by evidence. Another source that crops up in Magyar Hírlap and Magyar Idők is Daily Caller, which is “moderately to strongly biased toward conservative causes through story selection and/or political affiliation.” Daily Caller uses strongly loaded words in an attempt to influence, and they publish misleading reports or omit reporting of information that may damage conservative causes. All in all, the foreign news that reaches the readers of government papers, whether it comes from Russia or the United States, is strongly biased at best and fabricated at worst.

Let me give an illustration from an opinion piece written by István Lovas, in which I read the incredible news that “American military forces that are staying illegally in Syria enable ISIS terrorists to participate in military exercises at their military base near Al-Tanf.” The news reached Hungary thanks to the good offices of Russia Today. This astonishing news was reported by Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff of the armed forces of Russia and first deputy defense minister. The Russians have proof: satellite sighting and intelligence reports. I found only one article, on a right-wing internet site called Strategic Culture Foundation, that carried the news today. The problem is that their source was the same Russia Today that was also the source for Lovas. Strategic Culture took the alleged news seriously and created quite a story around it, accusing Donald Trump of a dirty double game.

Finally, there are some western journalists who spread pro-Russian propaganda. Botond Bőtös of Átlátszó wrote an article recently about F. William Engdahl, an American writer based in Germany. As Wikipedia puts it, “he identifies himself as an economic researcher, historian and freelance journalist.” Engdahl’s propaganda, via Hungarian intermediaries, reached Hungary as well. There might be a connection between his old preoccupation with “George Soros and his financial network” and Viktor Orbán’s propaganda campaign against Soros.

All in all, the Hungarian government media serves Russian propaganda well, thanks to a number of domestic and foreign pro-Russian propagandists busily spreading the word.

December 30, 2017
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Webber
Guest

Not pro-Russia – pro-Putin. And that is anti-Russian.

Guest

Infowars and zerohedge are really ugly falsifiers or even invent stories – anyone using them as sources or linking to them is obviously (at least to me …) a manipulator and totally unbelievable!
My favourite debunking site snopes.com has hundreds or maybe even thousands of examples of straight lies “published” by these propaganda sites. The latest example was the story that Soros had a heart attack at Xmas – a total fantasy and typical for them!
This story originated with Your News Wire, a fake news site that peddles in sensationalized and fabricated clickbait stories.
The fact that “official” Hungarian sources even use these speaks for itself! There’s a saying in German:
If this source just tells me that two and two equals four I first have to check it …

exTor
Guest

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It aint that easy, wolfi. Not everybody is intellectually cynical and/or astute. Lots of people get taken in by secondhand sources that themselves might have been taken in. I’d bet even Snopes has been sucked in now and then.

I find ‘truthers’ to be intellectually oxymoronic, actually knowingly moving away from truth. It’s a psychological condition that I haven’t yet gotten a handle on. Something seems to compel certain individuals to seek some sort of ‘hidden’ explanation, a ‘truth’ as yet unrevealed.

I myself accept ‘official reality’ [eg: as in 9/11] in most cases, however I make an exception for the Kennedy assassination. There are too many weird details for me to wrap my head around.

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I wish the best to the Hungarian Spectrum readership and especially to Éva Balogh, the facilitator of my Hungarian political education.

MAGYARKOZÓ

wrfree
Guest
I would like to extend the same to all who come here to get an ‘education’. I certainly continue in my ‘dotage’ to receive one from a Prof who enlightens all her ‘students’. And just a comment. I am in a much smaller town now compared to where I was born and raised. Have to say Eastern Europe appears to be a backwater subject that hardly anyone pays mind to here. I don’t expect it frankly to be top of mind but I feel as if I am now a harbinger of doom when discussion gets around to the place. It is quite evident most do not have the slightest notion of what is occurring there. Ironic now that the ‘student’ has become a sort of educator. I would venture to say though we’re all on the right track as we ‘pay attention’. The things happening today in Magyarorszag reflect on a myriad of items that affect the freedom we all cherish namely the right of good governance, free speech, free assembly , ethnic and religious tolerance, the freedom of diversity in ideas , intellectual and academic freedom and the rule of ‘good’ law. Best to you all in ’18… Read more »
Member

You said a lot to say nothing

Member

Name one false story they published

Istvan
Guest
I think that this Newsweek article http://www.newsweek.com/us-russia-accuse-one-another-helping-isis-final-days-loom-syria-719028 provides some context to the István Lovas article that Eva noted in her essay. In my opinion the US has used proxy forces to defeat the Islamic State because the American people can’t accept the casualties our ground forces would have taken to root out IS. In my opinion the entirety of Syrian Democratic forces, the Krudish forces, and the very problematic al-Nusra Front, which defected to the US coalition, as military forces are largely worthless and without the massive US air support provided to them would not have come near defeating IS. The U.S. strategy against ISIS was defined as “annihilation tactics,” Defense Secretary James Mattis several months ago. I have watched video footage of the US proxy forces in combat against IS and they are pathetic and Mattis would know this. Immediately I noted how these troops consistently shot from the hip rather than took measure shots at targets out to 100 meters, how they stuck their AKs over walls used for cover spraying automatic fire blindly at IS forces. How these forces did not operate as fire teams, but as individuals shooting at unclear targets. Ground combat requires massive discipline… Read more »
Guest

Totally OT:
It really seems that Hungary has risen to the level of the other “developed countries” – since yesterday we regularly see and hear fireworks all over the village (some years ago they were too expensive …):
And of course many dogs, cats and other animals are afraid of that – in the New Year we’ll find again on the ALDI parking site a number of dogs which ran away and now are begging for food there …

wrfree
Guest

Re: that Trojan horse..

How apt. Journalism and media today and for the future would always now have to give attention to the quip, ‘Beware of Greeks bearing gifts’. ‘Gift-giving’ as we have seen has resulted in destruction of institutional trust in the reporting of ‘news’.

But probably the most egregious action in all this is the fact that the Russians have managed to infect journalistic voices here in the United States with their propaganda and
use them to spread verbal and written plague. This is done by both the witting and unwitting dupes.

An extremely disconcerting situation and even more diabolical as we have our own POTUS who with his own comments on ‘fake news’ would arguably appear to give sustenance to those who would love none other to destroy and eliminate democratic institutions and the actions they are supposed to produce.

POTUS is the wrong one for the wrong time. Apparently an airhead who cannot realize that Putin is an expert now on rearing ‘horses’. They’re out of his stables and he’s managed to start breeding them around here.

Member

In my view, the more appropriate term would be “party-organized media.” When we use the word “government,” it presupposes that any government would control the pro-Fidesz media. Not true. The media we are talking about will be Fidesz-organized, no matter who is in power.

Ferenc
Guest

You’re right that it’s party-organized, but currently that party is the government (and state I would say).
The thing missing in your comment is the financing, so to be complete currently those media are party-organized with government/state financing.
And when that party will be out of government (whenever that will happen, but it will), serious changes to those media will happen, because of cut down/off government/state financing.

Member

I’ll wager good money mediabiasfactcheck and this poorly done site is funded by corrupt billionaire and Nazi collaborator, fellow HUngarian George Soros