Opposition tabloids and hand-operated MTI

In 2021, we also focused on the situation of the Hungarian press. We looked at how the public media handled information about the epidemic, what the county newspapers show about Hungary and what the opposition parties’ own tabloid media look like. Meanwhile, the country is facing increasing criticism, with Orban being seen as an enemy of press freedom.

At MTI, 2021 was also busy

Based on the narration of the employees of the Hungarian Telegraph Office and the internal correspondence in our possession, in December 2020 we showed how they are limited in what may appear in the MTI news feed. It turned out, for example, that there was only limited reporting on issues related to priestly pedophilia or human rights, and many materials disappear under mysterious circumstances or appear hours later.

Earlier this year, we also showed how MTI censorship works in photo editing. Photographers working for the news agency reported politically motivated decisions and distorted representations of reality. “In case of a sensitive topic, the editors-in-chief of the MTI as well as the Office of the Prime Minister must also send the photos and captions for verification” A photographer told Free Europe.

It was a turning point in the 2015 refugee crisis when “It was a clear instruction that we could only photograph vigorous men” One of our sources said. This is also confirmed by the photo archive, pictures of women and children have almost disappeared overnight.

It is forbidden to take photos of Viktor Orbán’s surroundings today. The Prime Minister has a dedicated photographer at the news agency, but for the most part, the materials of the Prime Minister’s photographer must also be picked up at the MTI. Only carefully selected images of the Prime Minister are published, in which he discusses, announces, shakes hands or gives an interview to one of the friendly media.

At the same time, the opposition is receiving less and less attention in photographs. “Before 2010, we had the same task of documenting opposition politicians and anti-government movements as government party members. However, this is now completely worn out of MTI’s offer in the years following the change of government. “ One of the photographers called our attention. By doing a few searches in the MTI Photobank archive, we were able to see for ourselves. The MTI publishes photos of opposition politicians almost only during the campaign period and during parliamentary speeches, but sometimes it does not.

The coronavirus epidemic is also a sensitive topic. On March 25, 2020, as part of a series, MTI released a photo of a pair of rubber gloves thrown to the ground at St. Ladislaus Hospital. The reported image was later withdrawn by MTI, and the head of the photo editor was relieved of his editorial position. According to our source, the reason for the exemption was that it allowed an image to appear that “Does not adequately represent protection against coronavirus”. The editor concerned was still able to stay with MTI as a photographer.

In April, MTI’s Photo Bank returned about 2,800 hits to the coronavirus search term from the previous thirty days. The images, without exception, showed people nationwide being vaccinated in an office, vaccination point, home, or on one of the military vaccination buses. We can’t see anything about hospitals, ventilators, doctors and nurses dressed in protective gear.

The situation was similar in the public media. This is not surprising in light of the fact that Free Europe has previously published an internal e-mail in which an editor described: the epidemic situation should be presented in such a way that it appears “We don’t have as much trouble as anywhere else.”

At the same time, it is not true that the Hungarian Covid class could not have been seen from the inside at all. MTI has published a series of photos of a hospital Covid ward several times.

By 2021, there was also an internal scandal at MTI. The news agency fired two of its staff, and three of them resigned in solidarity. The union protested in a letter to the CEO of the public media.

Hungary of county newspapers

In the summer, we saw what kind of Hungary the printed county newspapers reveal to their readers. In recent years, all local dailies have come under the pro-government KESMA, and there is more and more uniform, central content in newspapers. Despite the declining number of copies, the printed county dailies still reach huge numbers, in which the government narrative prevails more or less indirectly.

At least two-sided central content in every county newspaper should, in principle, be about national news, but here you really find an article as if it was written in the Government Information Center. Based on these, Hungary is in a very good position, as it will still have a pension premium, billions will be allocated for the development of crèches, and MÁV will develop.

For those interested in local public life, it also turns out that the settlements, the county and the country are developing, and rural tourism is spinning according to the articles in the newspapers. There is also development in the county whose headquarters is not controlled by Fidesz, only there it is due to the county assembly or the government: the main topics were renewable roads, a sports hall under construction, a Hungarian vaccine factory, and support for local residents.

The emphasis in the papers is, of course, on local content. Most of the writing is actually about how great life is in that county. In summer there is time for outdoor programs and village days, so you can report on an event almost every day, be it a peach festival, a rose day, a railway day, a competition for flower settlements, a fine arts festival, a local history exhibition or a gear race.

The propaganda is less powerful here, but it is worth mentioning the interview of Archbishop-Metropolitan Philip Kocsis published in the Diary of Hajdú-Bihari. According to the chief pastor, it is LGBT “Ideological attack”, and the kids coming from there “Impulses lead to homosexuality, not change.” Moreover “LGBT sensitization is related to human nature that is prone to harm.” According to Kocsis, LGBT activism is actually “Attack on humanity, wants to cause chaos”, and the ultimate goal is to fool people.

Orban is terrified of them

At the same time, it also turned out that the political tabloid is not just the government side at all. In recent years, a special medium has also developed on the opposition side, a significant part of which is linked to parties. This particular world is not as centralized as that of government-side editorials. There are several independent editorial offices owned by smaller or larger companies, individuals or foundations. They also differ in their style and professionalism. However, it is true for most of them that their writings are mainly suitable for creating a political mood, they contribute less to discussing our public affairs and getting to know the world better. Accordingly, they receive news and announcements in their own style – but there are exceptions to this.

You may want to browse through the analysis of pages near DK and Jobbik, including some that have 77 regional editions. You can find gems like these “Ferenc Gyurcsány pointed out the essence of October 6 with dignified commemorative thoughts. We shuddered as we read. ” “Loud Dobrev hate and busting personal cult at Sunday’s Mark-Zay session.” “Judit Varga slipped away from RTL’s awkward questions, embarrassing an eel… Judit Varga spat on the Hungarian people with this” trick “.”

In the second part of our article series, we looked at the pages related to MSZP and LMP. Many news and opinion pages are affiliated with the Hungarian Socialist Party. Among them, there is one that is openly or semi-openly taken up by the party, and one that is anonymous, but it is clear from the articles where its makers are going. The palette is also wide in terms of content, ranging from the boulevard to the news site. “DK is in big trouble! Here is the list that Gyurcsány would like to bury! ” and “The Orbans are already feeling their loss – the Prime Minister has made an amazing announcement!” – wrote, for example, Pesti Bulvár, which did not lag behind the Hungarian Left when he wrote that “The cannon of the MSZP kneeled in Orbán’s favorite corn – he trained the MSZP politician Novák very much” or that “An otherwise good representative has been replaced by dishonest means. We hope that Mr. Hadházy can grow into the coat of Csaba Tóth in the Zugló district. ” The Newsletter, which is basically a news site based on the rules and logic of journalism and is produced by renowned journalists, can also be linked to the MSZP. The party media of the LMP is more restrained, but sometimes the keyboard runs away when it comes to Viktor Orbán or Ferenc Gyurcsány.

The situation in Hungary is becoming more and more spectacular abroad

Several independent professional organizations have also drawn attention to the extent to which freedom of the press is being violated in Hungary. According to the Reuters Institute, for example, the government has interfered not only in the operation of the media market with money transfers, but also, for example, by restricting reporting opportunities. One example of this is the treatment of the coronavirus epidemic: the government did not provide credible and unambiguous information on the epidemic, the government could not be asked live for a long time, so only questions that were pre-selected and the press banned from hospitals were answered. . As a result, people in the region in Hungary have the least confidence in the credibility of the news presented to them. The analysis of the Reuters Institute mentions as a special problem that the credibility of the public media is low in Hungary and that the country is one of the examples of how the state can capture the media.

According to a report by the Council of Europe, the media regulatory authority (National Media and Communications Authority, NMHH) in Hungary is under political influence. In addition, there are ongoing and distortive state interventions in media market competition, according to the board. One kind of Hungarian peculiarity, for example, is that almost half of the market media companies on paper actually make a living from state advertisements.

Together, the two mean that the conditions for media diversity (media pluralism) and freedom of expression are constantly deteriorating in the country. And these are not only values ​​in themselves, they are also very important pillars of democracy.

The situation is particularly worrying in rural areas, where opportunities for free conflict of opinion have been significantly curtailed.

Restrictions on media freedom risk the human rights of Hungarians, a UN expert has said. According to the report of the world organization, fundamental human rights may be violated, especially in the upcoming elections in Hungary, with the intervention of the Budapest government in the media sector in the last decade. Irene Khan spoke about this after a week’s visit to Hungary.

As a result, by 2021, Hungary had slipped back to 92nd place in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom list. In 2010, Hungary was still in 23rd place, and since then its ranking has been steadily deteriorating. Last year, as the first EU head of government, the Hungarian Prime Minister was added to the list of enemies of press freedom with 37 leaders at Reporters Without Borders. According to them, Viktor Orbán effectively eliminated the diversity of the media through economic and political fraud, and has now acquired eighty percent of the Hungarian media.

We wrote in detail here about how the Hungarian press freedom was described. A rewritten media law, a Media Authority that maximizes the needs of the ruling party, independent editorials forced to close, the ousting of foreign newspaper publishers or the radio market, and the manipulation of advertising spending have all contributed to reaching out to non-government media outlets.

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