Hungary

Controlling the Message in Romania to Lock up the Election in Hungary

The Hungarian government gobbles up media wherever its citizens live. With the recent expansion into Romania’s media, their control over the electorate is nearing completion.
 

The News of Eastern Europe: Brought to You by Russia

For ten years, the Russian government has built media across eastern Europe. They are becoming a fearsome player in the region’s media market.
 
Last March, far-right British activist Jim Dowson told the Guardian that the website Patriotic News Agency, which he had launched in July 2016 to spread pro-Trump propaganda, has bases in Hungary and Serbia. He said that other such platforms are also based there.
 

Orban Launches Attack on Prominent University in Hungary

Hungarian government is poised to shut down the Central European University (CEU), George Soros’ key asset in the country.
 
The Ministry of Human Capacities in Budapest announced today that a number of universities are operating “illegally” in Hungary. Its representatives said that the government found “irregularities” in the operations of several foreign universities that operate in Hungary.
 

Tamas Bodoky: Readers Pay for Our Investigative Journalism

Interview with Hungarian-born Tamas Bodoky, a Budapest-based investigative journalist and editor leading Atlatszo.hu. Co-founded back in 2011 by Mr Bodoky, Atlatszo is a watchdog NGO and investigative journalism center whose mission is to promote transparency and freedom of information in Hungary.
 
Besides investigative reports, Atlatszo (which means “transparent” in Hungarian) has built a reputation for being open to whistleblowers and for regularly filing freedom of information requests. If those requests are refused, it takes public authorities to court.
 
Atlatszo.hu operates a Tor-based anonymous whistleblowing platform (Magyarleaks) and a freedom of information request generator to be used by the general public (Kimittud). Through the Kimittud, over 5,000 freedom of information requests were filed in the past three years in Hungary. Atlatszo.hu also provides a blogging platform for other NGOs and independent media. Atlatszo.hu has received a spate of prestigious prizes in the past five years.
 
Mr Bodoky has been a journalist for two decades now, his previous stints including work at Index.hu and Magyar Narancs weekly. He was awarded a sheaf of prizes for journalistic excellence in his career.
 

Internet Is Censored in Two-Thirds of the World

Many believe the Internet equals freedom of information. Recently, that has been less and less the case.
 
Maung Saung Kha, a 23-year old poet from Myanmar, was relieved last May to hear that he would be released from prison. On 24 May 2016, Mr Saung Kha was sentenced to six months in jail for defaming Myanmar’s former president Thein Sein, but because he had already spent six months behind bars, he was freed the same day.
 
His crime: posting a poem on Facebook in which a newlywed was baffled to see a tattoo featuring Myanmar’s former president on her husband’s genitals. The husband in the poem was Mr Saung Kha. In other parts of the world, such a poem would trigger a smile. But in Myanmar, authorities took this seriously. Using provisions on defamation from the telecommunications law, they justified imprisonment of the young bard in the Insein jail near Yangon, Myanmar’s capital city.
 

Hungary’s Main Opposition Newspaper Shut Down

Nepszabadsag’s publisher, Mediaworks announced that it has suspended the paper’s operations. This is arguably the biggest event in Hungary’s media history since the collapse of communism back in 1989.
 
Last Tuesday, the leftwing daily newspaper Nepszabadsag reported that Antal Rogan, known as the “minister of propaganda” in Hungary’s Viktor Orban government, travelled by a luxury helicopter to a wedding in Szabolcs county, northeast Hungary. Nepszabadsag published a raft of photographs featuring Mr Rogan and his wife, Cecilia and one of their children coming out of a helicopter and getting into a black Mercedes.
 
Mr Rogan denied these claims. He said that the newspaper must have confused him with somebody else. He also threatened to sue anybody who reported further on it. Mr Rogan reportedly went to the wedding of Zsofia Szabo, a local TV star, who is a friend of Cecilia Rogan. Mr Rogan must have spent some US$ 5,500 for the ride, according to information from the company that rented the chopper. That is a hefty sum in a country where average net salary is worth some US$ 600.

Subtly Silenced by the Hungarian Government

The editor in chief of Budapest Business Journal is leaving the newspaper. Here, he explains why.
 
Along with passing a package of restrictive media laws and seeking to influence ownership of media outlets, Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party is also using bullying tactics and intimidation in its broad campaign to silence criticism of the government. As a recent victim of this subtle strategy, I have to admit that it seems to be working.
 
After being told to stop writing about politics in the editorial column, I resigned as editor in chief of the Budapest Business Journal. Fidesz can now expect criticism of its government to drop by about 1,200 words a month.
 

The Anti-Orban Revolution Won’t Be Televised

Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban has been quietly gaining control over a media empire, especially TV assets, with the help of oligarchs fighting to win government contracts; but ahead of general elections set for 2018, the ongoing war between him and former ally media mogul Lajos Simicska threatens to bring the fascist Jobbik party to power – and squash independent media.
 
Lajos Simicska, one of Hungary’s wealthiest media and construction moguls, is said to be in the cards to buy the online news server Index.hu. In the past several months, Mr Simicska has been frantically restructuring his media empire, shedding some outlets and shopping around for new ones.
 
The reason? Mr Simicska is hell-bent to skunk Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban in the national elections scheduled to take place in 2018. He knows that having an arsenal of strong news media can make it happen.
 

Trust in Journalists and News Media Sinks to New Lows

The news media industry has been faced with a profound crisis for more than a decade now, and peoples' dwindling trust in journalists has much to do with it.
 
May was a nightmarish month for the 500 staff of Mega, the oldest privately owned channel in Greece, as the station was faced with closure following mounting debts, mostly to banks. In the end, the three families that control the channel - Psiharis, Bobolas and Vardinogiannis - agreed to increase Mega’s capital to save the channel from bankruptcy.
 
But the Mega crisis is illustrative of a much bigger problem that Greek journalism has been facing for years: the collusion between media and politics. Most of the country’s mainstream media was established by businessmen merely as PR channels for their other companies. Politicians don’t touch them as they enjoy the positive coverage; and owners fund the media through profits made in other companies.
 
It doesn’t come as a surprise, then, to see Greece at the bottom of the heap when it comes to trust in news organizations and journalists. Only one in five trust the news in Greece and a paltry 11% trust journalists, according to a survey run in 26 countries worldwide by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ).
 
Greece is not alone. Journalism has a growing trust problem in many other places.
 

European Court Decision Allows Media to Be Less Paranoid About Online Comments

In summer 2015, a much-criticized decision by Europe’s human rights court left online portals anxious about what comments they allowed on their sites. Now, the same court has reversed that decision in a lawsuit lodged by two Hungarian websites. That means less stress for online media.
 

Public Service Media in Europe: Exit Through the Back Door?

Recent turbulence at the Polish public broadcaster was seen by some observers as another political football game. Public broadcasting will survive any market or policy changes, however tumultuous they are, they say. But Minna Aslama argues that public TV has fallen out of political favor in many countries now. Even well-established broadcasters in western countries are likely to be dramatically downsized.

Poland has been featured in global news in the past weeks. A controversial law was passed that allowed the replacement of the directors of Polish public TV and radio with political appointees.

The Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) notes that this may well be the first step by the Polish government in curbing all free media and commercial outlets. CIMA also reminds us that just a few years before Poland, Hungarians witnessed a severe media crackdown.
 

Right-wing Extremists in Hungary Build Their Own Media. And Businesses. And Popularity

The video of a Hungarian reporter filmed tripping refugees made headlines all over the world. The station she worked for is close to Jobbik, an extreme right-wing political party. But that is not all Jobbik sympathizers build in Hungary.

A female cameraman tripped an escaping refugee holding a child, and also kicked another child while she was shooting a refugee crowd escaping from the police at the Serbian-Hungarian border in early September 2015. The footage quickly spread globally. Petra Laszlo, the cameraman in question, became world famous, and was made redundant from television N1TV (“n” standing for national in Hungarian). A police proceeding was launched against her for disturbing the peace. She became a hero of the extreme-right wing Hungarian community with people demanding N1TV to take her back.