Although Hungary is part of NATO, before the outbreak of the war, social media views were more sympathetic to Russia and more critical of NATO. There are, of course, several reasons for this, the appearance of Russian opinions being just one of them.
Of course, the Hungarian government’s policy of opening to the East and keeping a distance from the West has certainly played a significant role in this issue. HVG wrote an article about the analysis.
An analytical firm called Political Capital examined Hungarian media and social media between September 1, 2021, and January 14, 2022. Analysing the media coverage in detail, they concluded that during this time, the Hungarian press, including government-run newspapers, had a largely positive or neutral attitude towards NATO.
Although there are anti-NATO views in the political elite, they come primarily from more radical individuals, so NATO has not even become the subject of daily political conflicts.
However, the ruling party has developed and communicated a positive, friendly image of Russia to voters, which is in total contrast with the views of the opposition. The opposition has been advocating for distance from Russia for years and is essentially a proponent of Western-oriented integration and federal systems.
In recent years, the Hungarian government has launched several joint deals and projects with Russia or with Russian companies or entrepreneurs with a high number of contacts.
Respectively, Russian President Putin and Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán seemed to have a much better friendship than Putin had with other European Union countries, meeting regularly and talking positively about each other’s work.
Although, as mentioned at the beginning of our article, the media broadcasted a positive image of NATO, it has also happened that reports from the Hungarian News Agency went viral.
The News Agency often seems to be pro-Russia or pro-Kremlin.
News with a Russian ‘background’ could easily spread to the rest of the Hungarian press as they use the News Agency as a source of news. This way, Russian ideas are becoming part of the narrative. This mainly means attitudes, points of view, or topics to be highlighted.
Most of the comments in the Facebook database collected by Political Capital through the SentiOne media monitoring program are anti-NATO. 58 per cent of comments on NATO were critical of the organisation’s activities.
The debates are dominated by anti-NATO narratives on the platform, including the comment sections of the mainstream Hungarian news portals. In these comments, all the common pro-Kremlin narratives appear: NATO and Washington want to wage war on Russia, or they call the Kremlin’s policy on Ukraine legitimate, which they say wants to prevent the United States from taking control of Kyiv.
This social media activity may play a role in spreading NATO-skeptical attitudes. Not only are simple users and enthusiastic pro-Kremlin activists helping to spread the narratives, but fake profiles often appear as well.