RSF Sweden’s prize singles out journalists who show courage and independence, qualities that embody the journalistic ideal that RSF defends, according to its secretary-general, Christophe Deloire. These are precisely the qualities that characterize this new website’s staff, who have succeeded in imposing an impartial editorial line in a country in which press freedom is increasingly endangered.
“If there’s one thing we need in these difficult times for press freedom in the European Union, it’s more courageous and committed journalists who dare to raise their voices against authoritarian regimes, corruption, organized crime and disinformation, and against threats and hate speech on social media platforms,” RSF Sweden director Erik Halkjaer said. “The news website telex.hu’s staff are journalists of this calibre. They took matters into their own hands, raised funds through a crowdfunding platform, and launched a newspaper in what is one of Europe’s worst countries for press freedom. And in barely six months, they’ve got 40,000 subscribers, 700,000 visitors a day, and the support of the Hungarian population, which sees its access to independent and investigative journalism being reduced by the day.”
Press freedom has been declining steadily for the past ten years in Hungary, which is now ranked 92nd out of 180 countries in RSF's World Press Freedom Index. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his national conservative party have gradually taken control of independent media. When Szabolcs Dull, the editor of Hungary’s leading news website, index.hu, was fired by its new owner, an Orbán ally, in July 2020, the entire editorial staff resigned in protest and launched the reader-funded news site telex.hu.
“If we left Index, it’s because we felt our independence was being threatened,” telex.hu joint editor Veronika Munk said. “We needed to find a way to stay together, to create a news site that was impartial and independent from the oligarchs and politicians – in short, a site that really belonged to us. Uniting for something you believe in, for the benefit of a society you love, this is quite unique.”
Hungary’s leading independent, reader-funded news outlet, telex.hu revealed that the Hungarian government was using its ambassadors to spy on journalists working abroad who are on the government’s long blacklist.
Justification for the press freedom award
RSF Sweden awarded its Press Freedom Prize to telex-hu for daring to launch itself as a crowd-funded, independent, and impartial news site in Hungary. In a country whose government has violated press freedom for years and now controls 80% of the media, in a country that has fallen 82 places in the World Press Freedom Index in 15 years, this courageous initiative deserves to be recognized and saluted.