59 per cent of Hungarians believe that press freedom in Hungary is “strongly limited” and public media outlets provide biased coverage of events, according to a poll conducted for the left-wing Sunday newspaper Vasárnapi Hírek.
The representative poll, conducted by Publicus Institute between 11 and 13 October on a sample of 1000 respondents, examined attitudes concerning press freedom and popular opinions on the controversial closure of the left-wing Népszabadság newspaper, the country’s largest-circulation daily broadsheet paper.
According to the survey, the majority of respodents say that the press in contemporary Hungary is “not independent” from the government, while close to 9 out of 10 citizens believe that this is an important value. 85 per cent of Hungarians are aware that the publication of Népszabadság has been suspended, and close to one in two respondents claimed to have read the print or online edition of the paper with “some regularity” – which is in stark contrast to its collapsing circulation numbers.
The majority of respondents said that despite registering major losses over the past years, the paper was forced to shut down because it criticised the cabinet and government politicians, as well as the country’s ruling Fidesz party “restricting press freedom”.
The situation of media freedom in Hungary has long been a favourite subject of Hungary’s fragmented left-wing parties, an accusation that has become more pronounced with the closure of Népszabadság last weekend.
Allegations of government control over the media have, over the past, been strongly rejected by the cabinet, with foreign minister Péter Szijjártó claiming in a January statement that “it has become obvious that the press has more freedom in Central Europe than in the continent’s western half”, referring to the mainstream western media’s denial of the link between immigration and terrorism.
cover: archive photo (Fortepan)