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

Tamás Vaski 2021.04.20.

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 international non-governmental organization, known for highlighting levels of media freedom and criticizing censorship, recently shared its 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

CoE Commissioner Calls on Hungary to 'Restore' Press Freedom
CoE Commissioner Calls on Hungary to 'Restore' Press Freedom

Dunja Mijatovic, human rights commissioner of the Council of Europe, said in a memorandum on Tuesday that it was “high time for Hungary to restore journalistic and media freedoms”. In reaction, representatives of the Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office, the justice ministry, and media authority NMHH called the memorandum “biased,” based on “assumption rather than facts.” […]Continue reading

Unfortunately, Hungary now ranks 92nd globally, following Lesotho, Moldova, North Macedonia, and Peru. The only European Union country in a worse position is Bulgaria, ranked 112th. The countries considered to have the most media freedom are Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark, while those with the least media freedom include China, Turkmenistan, North Korea, and Eritrea.

RSF described the state of Hungary’s media in the sense of the EU’s “alternative, repressive model.” They said that the Orbán government took advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to “extend its hegemony” over Hungarian media.

Finance Minister Praises State of Press Freedom in Hungary
Finance Minister Praises State of Press Freedom in Hungary

The freedom of the press is fully guaranteed by Hungarian legislation, media operate on a market basis and the government of Hungary has “neither the right nor the intention to interfere in such matters in any way”, Finance Minister Mihály Varga said in a letter addressed to his Dutch counterpart. In the letter, which Varga […]Continue reading

According to the NGO, the emergency powers given to Fidesz to handle the pandemic allowed it to threaten journalists with prosecution for spreading fake news and “blocking the government’s anti-pandemic efforts.”

RSF said that the Hungarian Media Council damaged media pluralism because of its political decisions, which included taking away Klubrádió’s frequency. The organization considers the government’s takeover of Index.hu to be the most “spectacular development in 2020.”

Gov't-Critical Klubrádió Goes Off Air from Sunday Midnight
Gov't-Critical Klubrádió Goes Off Air from Sunday Midnight

The last government-critical radio station, Klubrádió, switched off analog broadcasting at Sunday midnight and continues airing online. The Media Authority’s decision, followed by a court ruling, generated uproar and debates, and will probably remain on the agenda for a long time.  Klubrádió signed off by replaying part of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech at the […]Continue reading

Media1.hu brought up that in 2009, Hungary had placed 25th globally on the same index. Over the course of the three Orbán governments, however, it has fallen 67 ranks.

Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Relations Zoltán Kovács reacted to the results on twitter, “surprised” by the organization he describes as the “Soros-funded group that last year called [Hungary’s] state of emergency law.”

Kovács added, Regarding Hungary’s rule of law, that RSF made “false, idiotic claims” based on “local political activist sources.”

Featured photo illustration via Zoltán Kovács’s Facebook page