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?? Hungary: Orban’s media manipulation exposed | The Listening Post (Feature)

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If the polls are to be believed, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban could win his third, consecutive election this April. Should that happen, the media there will have played a large part.

Since coming to power for the second time in 2010, the Orban government has devoted considerable energy and resources to restructuring the domestic media landscape in its favour.

According to the investigative journalism outlet Atlatszo.hu, allies of the prime minister and his Fidesz party have been buying up numerous, private Hungarian media outlets since 2010. Men like former Hollywood producer Andy Vajna and old school friend Lorinc Meszaros are among a group of 14 Orban allies who have collectively bought 20 television channels, 11 radio stations and close to 500 online and print organisations.

“Public media has been totally conquered by the government since 2010. Now they have four channels to communicate the rhetoric of the government. It’s just full-time government propaganda,” says Daniel Renyi, a journalist at 444.hu.

State media remains a powerful megaphone. The umbrella organisation, created by the Hungarian government in 2011, is called the MTVA and it oversees all public output across TV, radio and web.

MTVA costs Hungarians more than $305m a year and is referred to by critics as “a taxpayer-funded propaganda network”.

The Listening Post managed to speak to two MTVA employees who described a lack of editorial independence and a climate of fear. They’re wary of speaking out and did so on the condition that we disguise their faces and their voices.

“Every single thing connected to domestic politics is restricted,” says one of the MTVA employees. “You can’t write anything bad about the government. For example, when something is politically sensitive, I get instructions. In some cases, I have the whole ready-made article, so I don’t need to do anything, no editing at all, just control C, copy and paste, the whole article. It’s unimaginable, to be honest.”

Being pro-Orban requires the Hungarian media to turn against those critical of his government and its agenda. That means opposition figures, critical voices at the European Union, refugees, and one, well-known Hungarian emigrant, George Soros.

The US-based billionaire businessman and philanthropist has, through his Open Society Foundations, funded investigations into the Orban government and campaigned in favour of multiculturalism and more open borders – ideals squarely at odds with the prime minister’s.

For the Fidesz party, Soros has become a handy scapegoat. Anti-Soros rhetoric is all over the Hungarian media, which portrays Soros as someone who represents ‘all’ that threatens the country.

According to the MTVA insiders, editorial directives from the government on the Soros story can be crystal clear.

“Whatever a story is about, if it mentions Soros, we focus on it. Anything that has any connection to Soros gets the ‘Soros’ beginning: Soros-organisation, Soros-university. And of course the word ‘migrant’. And then left-liberal: Left-liberal newspapers, left-liberal-journalists. So just three words: Soros, migrant and left-liberal. That’s the government’s whole campaign,” explains the other MTVA employee.

The Listening Post team tried to put these claims of government interference directly to the government spokesperson, Zoltan Kovacs, but he turned down the interview request via text message. He said he did not “believe the government should in any way comment on media issues”, even going so far as to say, “The government has nothing to do with the media.”

Hungary’s combination of tightly-controlled state media and private outlets owned by government-friendly tycoons means that most of the country’s media is on the same page when it comes to some of the most important issues. Evidence of that can be found in the eerily similar, pro-government talking points that keep appearing, almost word for word, in multiple news outlets.

“We figured out that the content creation is centralised,” explains Renyi. “We created this model, you can see that an information pops up somewhere, and in an hour all these media [outlets] that have been influenced by the government, referred to it and they spread it around.”

Orban has publicly stated that “I am convinced that an essential part of national sovereignty is having the majority of a media system in national hands.”

The majority of Hungary’s news media is already owned by Hungarians. But it seems that Viktor Orban wants it all. And when he says the media system must be in national

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