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PM Orbán Buys Gov’t Critical News to Prove Freedom of Hungarian Press

Tamás Vaski 2021.07.07.

In reaction to being listed as a “predator” of press freedom, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán posted a short video on his Facebook page with the intention of proving that Hungary has plenty of government critical media. The caption writes, “I’ve found the “lost” press freedom!”

In the video, Orbán casually walks up to a newspaper booth vendor, who seems pleasantly surprised that the Hungarian prime minister decided to pay him a sudden visit. “I came because they have packed Hungary onto some sort of anti-press freedom list,” Orbán explains, referring to his naming on Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) Press Freedom Predators list.

Fact

RSF, which the prime minister describes in the video as “some organization of Soros,” placed Orbán among its list of “new entrants,” saying that he “has steadily and effectively undermined media pluralism and independence since being returned to power in 2010.”

The prime minister proceeded to specifically seek out and purchase “government critical or government insulting newspapers.” Based off the video, these outlets include Hócipő, 168 Óra, HVG, Élet és Irodalom, Magyar Narancs, and Népszava.

RSF: Orbán Only European Union Leader on “Press Freedom Predators” List
RSF: Orbán Only European Union Leader on “Press Freedom Predators” List

Orbán is listed among the "new entrants," along with Brazilian president Bolsonaro and Saudi Arabian Mohammed bin Salman.Continue reading

Orbán commented that “media freedom is in a miserable state if there are only this many outlets from which I am attacked,” to which the vendor added that “there are more,” without listing specific additions.

Amount of Anti-Gov’t Media Accurate Measure of Press Freedom?

Orbán’s post is styled similarly to one Telex published in June, made in response to the prime minister’s statements in London. Orbán had told journalists that if someone asks for government critical newspapers at a Hungarian news stand, they are bound to get “a dozen at least.”

Telex’s correspondent was ultimately only able to purchase seven government critical newspapers from three separate vendors. Ultimately, the news outlet suggested that there are around 10 physical Hungarian newspapers which can be considered government critical, far outnumbered by those which are pro-government.

State Sec Dismisses Reporters Without Borders' Criticism of Hungary’s Media Freedom
State Sec Dismisses Reporters Without Borders' Criticism of Hungary’s Media Freedom

Reporters Without Borders has updated its World Press Freedom Index, ranking Hungary three places lower than last year, and describing the state of Hungary’s media freedom as the EU’s “alternative, repressive model.” Government official Zoltán Kovács reacted to the ranking on Twitter, describing the NGO as a “Soros-funded group” that makes “false, idiotic claims.” The […]Continue reading

While there is understandably much more to the measure of press freedom than the amount of government critical and pro-government newspapers, both videos conclude, whether jokingly or seriously, with comments on the relatively minimal amount of government critical sources.

Featured photo via Viktor Orbán’s Facebook page