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Pro-Gov’t Journalist: “State Media too Politically Biased, this Is Untenable”

Hungary Today 2022.04.13.

After the elections, the taxpayer-funded state media (MTVA) recorded an interesting turn of events: after not inviting opposition politicians or the opposition’s PM candidate on their shows, the latter, Péter Márki-Zay, was now interviewed for almost 50 minutes on one of their programs. At the same time, one of the best-known pro-government journalists, Gábor Bencsik, sharply criticized the state media. While happy about another two-thirds victory for Fidesz, he took a “deep breath” and said: “what everyone on the right knows: the political bias of the Hungarian public media is untenable.” MTVA rejected the “accusations” and practically called the pro-government journalist a former communist, also mentioning his earlier ties to US billionaire George Soros.

This article was originally published on our sister-site, Ungarn Heute. 

As we reported before the Hungarian parliamentary elections, the opposition’s joint prime ministerial candidate, Péter Márki-Zay, was allowed to speak for a mere five minutes on state TV station M1, presenting the opposition’s electoral program. This was the very first time in late March when the mayor of Hódmezővásárhely, who also won the opposition primaries last year, was allowed to enter the Hungarian state television’s building at all.

After Four Years of Neglect, State Media Gives Five Minutes to Each Opposition Party before Election
After Four Years of Neglect, State Media Gives Five Minutes to Each Opposition Party before Election

For example, Momentum has appeared on the public television's screen one time since the 2018 elections for five minutes, which they were given before the 2019 European Parliament elections.Continue reading

Also during the election campaign, the six opposition parties held a demonstration in front of the headquarters of the state media (MTVA) against, among other things, the working of the media funded by state money. They protested not only against the allegedly exaggerated Russian propaganda, but also consider it unacceptable that members of their parties are almost never invited to the state-funded media, which means that they reach significantly fewer voters than ruling Fidesz-KDNP.

Then it hit the news this Tuesday that Péter Márki-Zay, the opposition’s former candidate for prime minister, was invited to pro-government political analyst Tamás Lánczi’s  “48 Minutes” show on Thursday. This is certainly interesting in light of the fact that during the elections, Márki-Zay was only allowed to spend the five minutes required by law in the MTVA studio, not one minute more.

In another interesting aspect: recently on the show, one of the most famous right-wing journalists, Gábor Bencsik, sharply criticized the public media.

On Facebook he wrote that while he was happy about Fidesz’s two-thirds victory, he took a deep breath and said “what everyone on the right knows: the political bias of Hungarian public media is untenable.”

Bencsik then lists what he considers to be the biggest problems with the working methods of MTVA: “It is absurd that:

  • opposition politicians are practically absent from the broadcasts
  • those who comment on the news come exclusively from the ruling parties’ side
  • long pro-government op-eds are read as news on the news broadcasts
  • opposition opinions are mostly presented in a warped way in pro-government rebuttals.”

After it emerged that Péter Márki-Zay will make a 48-minute appearance on M1 (state media news program) on Thursday, Bencsik said, “that’s something,” but it would have been more correct to providme the prime ministerial candidate that much time when such an “appearance” would have had any meaning.

Hungarian public television is also the television of the opposition half of the country, it is also run from their taxes, it is time to behave accordingly,”

Bencsik concluded.

Another peculiarity of the case is that as soon as Tuesday evening, public media issued a response to Bencsik’s criticisms, stating that they had reported on the main opposition events and had asked opposition politicians for comment who did not respond. They then refer to the pro-government journalist as a “Soros man.” As they write: “Gábor Bencsik, who used to work for a foundation funded by George Soros, joined the leftist ranks of those who regularly and unfoundedly accuse the public media when he speculated that Péter Márki-Zay would be a guest on a joint program of M1 and hirado.hu on Thursday.”

Then, MTVA also attacked the conservative cultural newspaper of which Bencsik had been editor-in-chief. “Magyar Krónika, which he ran, received state subsidies of tens of millions of forints a year for its cultural activities during its existence, and the editor stated that it had two thousand subscribers. The big question is where the money went, because in 2019 the newspaper was threatened with closure, so Bencsik wrote to readers asking for money.”

After all, they accused the journalist of being a former communist. “…he who was also a former secretary general of the National Union of Journalists (1989-1997) functioning with a communist party background, did not even notice that M1, Kossuth Radio, hirado.hu, and MTI regularly reported on important opposition events before and during the election campaign and asked left-wing politicians for comments several times.”

OSCE: Hungary Elections Well-Run but Did Not Offer Level Playing Field
OSCE: Hungary Elections Well-Run but Did Not Offer Level Playing Field

The lack of transparency and oversight over campaign finance favored the ruling alliance, OSCE election and referendum monitor Kari Henriksen said.Continue reading

The state media suspects that Gábor Bencsik is working for the OSCE people and that they are already preparing their material to discredit the public media.

featured image via Tibor Illyés/MTI

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