EU’s alternative, repressive model
After seizing on the coronavirus pandemic as a handy pretext, Viktor Orbán’s government continued to extend its hegemony over the Hungarian media landscape and inspire other European countries such as Slovenia and Poland. Its coronavirus legislation, which gave the government almost unlimited powers to handle the crisis, threatened journalists with prosecution on charges of disseminating fake news and “blocking the government’s anti-pandemic efforts,” and imposed additional curbs on their already limited access to state-held information. This would-be information police state at the heart of Europe forced many journalists and their sources to censor themselves, although articles critical of the government and revealing reports were often still published. By requiring journalists to get permission from the authorities and landowners before conducting a drone overflight, or risk a one-year prison sentence, the government showed a readiness to resort to any legislative means possible to obstruct reporting by independent media and to protect the oligarchs that reporters would like to investigate. Media pluralism suffered from political decisions taken on administrative pretexts by the Media Council, including its decision to strip Klubrádió of its frequency, thereby limiting it to online broadcasting, and its Antenna Hungária decision, effectively ending DAB+ broadcasting in Hungary. The most spectacular development in 2020 was the government’s takeover of the Index.hu website with the help of one of the prime minister’s business allies. Telex.hu, launched by former Index.hu journalists, has helped to save what is left of pluralism in Hungary, along with Radio Free Europe’s return.
89 in 2020
30.84 in 2020