Opinion: Weeklies on Press Freedom and Hungary’s Place in the EU

  • 21 Mar 2023 6:11 AM
  • BudaPost
Opinion: Weeklies on Press Freedom and Hungary’s Place in the EU
Opposition-leaning commentators are fiercely critical of both the government’s perennial conflicts with the European Union and the plight of the press, while a pro-government weekly quotes statistics to prove the existence of vibrant and diverse media.

In his Jelen editorial, Zoltán Lakner describes the Hungarian media landscape as a straitjacket. He admits that Hungary ‘is not the worst country in matters of press freedom’, as no journalists are sent to jail for political reasons, unlike in Turkey; nor are they ever killed, unlike in Russia or even Malta and Slovakia, for investigating links between the mafia and the government.

They are, on the other hand frequently targeted by propagandists. He wrote his remarks on the occasion of 15 March, the 125th anniversary of the 1848 revolution, whose protagonists demanded a free press and the abolition of censorship for the first time in Hungarian history.

Demokrata’s Péter Bándy suggests, on the other hand, that empirical data prove the existence of a colourful and multifaceted media landscape in Hungary. As far as TV channels are concerned, virtually all households have access to the most popular RTL club TV station which is often critical of the government.

Virtually all households have broadband Internet connection and 80% regularly follow government-critical outlets, while somewhat less, 75% switch to government-friendly sources. 14% are only interested in the critics of the government, while a mere 6% use only government-friendly news sources.

Over the past 13 years, the number of government-critical outlets has increased by 50% and most are profitable. On the basis of these facts, Bándy dismisses the alleged absence of press freedom as pure fabrication.

Magyar Hang is the only weekly which held back a page in print until the celebrations to mark the anniversary of the 1948 revolution ended on Wednesday. In an article on Prime Minister Orbán’s speech in Kiskörös, the authors not that he unusually avoided politically contentious issues and was milder than usual on Brussels.

Quoting political analyst Gergely Rajnai, Magyar Hang believes that the government is trying to tune down its rhetoric vis-à-vis the European Union and suggests that the new approach may be related to a change in the government’s evaluation of the prospects of the war in Ukraine. That is why, the expert believes, pro-government pundits have begun making somewhat more critical remarks about Russia.

Heti Világgazdaság publishes a report by the Medián polling company showing that the overwhelming majority of Hungary’s population is in favour of continued EU membership. 84% are strongly or rather favourable, while even 76% of government supporters favour Hungary’s membership in the European Union.

In case a referendum were held about Hungary leaving the European Union, 76 percent of respondents would vote against it. Heti Világgazdaság finds it telling for the future that the ratio is even higher (84%) among people under 30 years of age.

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Launched in May 2011 to provide a balanced picture of matters covered in Hungary’s national press. Their aim is to make it easier for English-speakers to understand where this country is now and where it’s heading according to the full spectrum of media opinions.

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