Self-proclaimed champion of “illiberal democracy,” Viktor Orbán has not stopped, since returning to power in 2010, from attacking media pluralism and independence. After public broadcasting was turned into a propaganda organ, private media were subjugated or reduced to silence. The methods may be subtle or brazen, but they are always efficient. Thanks to political-economic manoeuvres and the purchase of media companies by oligarchs close to Fidesz, the ruling party, it now controls 80 per cent of the country’s media landscape. At the top is the Kesma foundation, which owns approximately 500 pro-government media organisations. The remaining independent media are discriminated against in government advertising and access to official information. Their journalists are systematically denigrated in pro-government media, which call them purveyors of “fake news.” This charge was made a criminal offence during the Covid-19 crisis, with the effect of self-censorship on journalists and their sources. These varied predatory techniques have proved so effective that they have inspired Orbán’s Polish and Slovenian allies.
After the closing of the daily Népszabadsag
and oligarchs’ assumption of control over news sites Origo.hu
the government has targeted the RTL
channel, the daily Népszava,
and weeklies HPV, Magyar Hang, Magyar Narancs,
and the 24.hu
site. The latest move: a political decision by the supposedly independent radio-television regulatory agency to deprive Klubrádio
of its broadcast frequency.
OFFICIAL DISCOURSE: Belligerent
“We must fight against…media maintained by foreign groups and domestic oligarchs.” (Speech delivered in 2018 to celebrate the 170th anniversary of the 1848 revolution).
“This is not the moment...to go into hospitals in order to produce staged videos or spread fake news.” (Response to a demand by 28 independent media for access to hospitals and to interviews with medical personnel during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021).