The government can continue to reject criticism concerning the state of media freedom in Hungary, but the facts speak for themselves. A series of emails confirm what many suspected for a long time, namely that state media has a list of sensitive topics for which journalists need approval from higher up.
POLITICO obtained several emails from anonymous state media employees in which senior editors tell their staff to require permission from higher up if they want to cover specific topics in their articles. The emails obtained by Politico come from state media outlets such as the state news agency MTI and other television and radio stations.
These emails were sent to the employees by the key players of state media, a.k.a. the senior editors and bosses, detailing how the staff is required to submit draft content for approval concerning certain topics. In some extreme cases, journalists are prohibited from writing a single word on an issue until they get permission from higher up. No one is quite sure who approves these articles. When an article gets rejected by these unknown decision-makers, senior editors often refer to it as the report that “fell in battle.”
What are these topics, you ask?
The state media’s “list of sensitive topics” include:
- European politics (parliamentary, presidential and local elections)
- “Church issues”
- “Greta Thunberg materials”
In the case of “Greta Thunberg materials”, editors need consent from the editor-in-chief’s office before writing a single word.
The emails also confirm that all coverage of reports from leading human rights organisations (such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch) are banned.
Hungarian journalists have long raised concerns that state-owned media simply ignores specific politically sensitive issues in their reports. In 2018, thousands of anti-government protesters rallied outside MTVA’s headquarters calling for an objective public media in Hungary.
Despite all of this, the government continues to deny any criticism concerning the state of media freedom in Hungary.