Hungary is 87th in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index compiled by the international organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a far fall from last year’s ranking.
In recent years, Hungary’s position has fallen significantly. In 2011, it was in 44th place, but the next year, it slipped 16 spots. According to RSF, this happened because “the initiation of controversial media laws” led to “self-censorship becoming a wide-spread practice in newsrooms.” The World Press Freedom Index of Hungary has been falling ever since it received a ranking of 71 in 2016. Countries are scored from 0 to 100, with 0 being the best and 100 the worst. According to the 2019 RSF report, with a score of 30.44, press freedom in Hungary is currently at a ‘problematic’ level.
Addressing the Hungarian situation specifically, the group wrote that there is an “extreme ownership concentration” in the country and that it is “in the hands of oligarchs allied with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s ultra-nationalist government.” The group also mentioned the creation of the Central European Press and Media Foundation, stating that “around 500 privately-owned newspapers, cable TV channels, radio stations and news websites, and almost all of the regional daily newspapers” were acquired at the end of the year. It also highlighted the fact that the government claimed the consortium was of “strategic national importance in the public interest” and that this move would effectively prevent “competing media outlets or media sector representatives from opposing it.”
NGOs call on MEPs to launch Article 7 proceedings against Hungary
The Scandinavian countries ranked highest on this year’s press freedom list. Norway took first place, followed by Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark. Turkmenistan is at the bottom of the list, following North Korea and Eritrea. Meanwhile, Hungary rests in the middle with countries such as Sierra Leone, Israel and Serbia.
Published every year since 2002 by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the World Press Freedom Index ranks 180 countries and regions according to the level of freedom available to journalists. It is a snapshot of the media freedom situation based on an evaluation of pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and safety of journalists in each country and region.