Readers’ letter: Sargentini debate – Demolishing unbiased news from Hungarian media
The vote regarding the Sargentini-report on the Hungarian government took place last week. I would like to emphasise the ‘government’ word here, as many MEPs did as well. Prime Minister Orbán started his opening speech and maintained an opinion that the whole report remarks, judges and stigmatises the Hungarian nation as a whole.
Hungary’s current legislative framework does not fully ensure an uncensored and unhindered press, according to Sargentini. What could give a better example of this than the debate and the outcome itself?
Before analysing the official statements and the press releases, we should take a look at the perfectly built publicity by PM Orbán on the debate. Two topics should be highlighted here – the parallel between the Soviet Union and the socialist era in Hungary in the 20th century and the immigration crisis.
A few self-evident statements of his speeches and releases:
“They ( EU/Sargentini) are sentencing the country who stood against the world’s largest army – the Soviets,” said Orbán, likely to suggest the 1956’s revolution and not WW2.
This remark during his opening speech was foreshadowed by his vlog announcement on the official social media site, where he stated the following: “the verdict has been written” implying the juridical custom of show trials of the stern communist-socialist days of Rákosi.
Also, a notable point to his authoritarian announcement, that he mentioned Brussels instead if Strasbourg – many suggest that this was not a mistake, rather an indication to the previous – and probably incoming – campaign against Brussels, as the objectification of the EU and the EP.
The show trial is a very important keyword to remember to which also came back later in the news created by government-close news sites and tv channels.
In advance, I would like to stress that this article will not place a judgement on the immigration crisis in Hungary or in Europe, neither will take part on any of the sides.
However, he did win at some levels at this debate, even though this has not had any effects on the actual outcome. He won because he could point to a part of the report questionable enough, and this was the question of migration.
These remarks gave him a weapon, easily useable with the well-known lines about Soros, Brussels, liberalism, socialism and national sovereignty.
These two components only added fuel to the fire. It is also considered that it took years to build the many layers of regulated lies on behalf of the government. In a well working state, the press’s job is to inform citizens about an unwarped reality.
Due to this expectation, people informing themselves only from a selected sample of journals, which advertises themselves as an unbiased and reliable source, will indeed assume that it must be reality – while they live in a malformed universe of Fidesz. Mostly because all the national tv channels (for most people the only form of cable channels), radio, printed and online media will publicise the very same news in the very same manner.
The main issue is that this manner is far from both unbiased or fair – even if we only see the news from the day of the debate and the following voting day.
Right because of these, the obvious way for Euroscepticism is already laid down in front of us.
The Magyar Televizió (later: m1) is a government-organised televisional institution, available for each household without any extra charges from their providers, making it the most popular channel for getting updates on both international and national news.
“Judith Sargentini’s report passed in the EP, thus accepting the most rigorous punishment against Hungary, the EU’s nuclear weapon.”
After this statement, they move on to Ms Sargentini, and her MEP’s reaction, stressing her emotional reactions, to raise antipathy against her as a person. This can be considered as a vile move to set up the same picture as they did about George Soros. Later on the same programme, they do not talk about the points of the report, nor the actual point about immigration, but underlining that the Hungarian nation is punished as a whole for choosing not to be an “immigrant country”.
TV2 is a commercial channel, supported by multi-millionaire Andy Vajna, one of the government’s oligarch.
“All over Europe Viktor Orbán is celebrated on social media, even though the Sargentini report passed and stigmatised Hungary today. Foreigner and Hungarian commenters celebrate the Hungarian PM.”
The title, which is exactly the following: “Viktor Orbán is celebrated all over Europe” is already misleading, suggesting that he has won, even if the report passed. The programme is quoting his facebook/social media site’s comments, only from his depraved fans.
Origo in one of the most viewed news sites of Hungary, owned by the cousin of the leader of the Federal Bank of Hungary. Before Matolcsy Ádám bought the site as the part of New Wave Media Group, it was owned by Hungarian (Deutsche) Telekom running a quality and unbiased news site until 2014.
The situation is the same with the television channels – before it became a government sided media, it was a reliable and trustworthy channel of unbiased opinions and news. Many not necessary internet-literate readers did not change from Origo to a similar website, trusting that it is still providing real data and news.
Without quoting any of the actual articles, I would like to attach a screenshot and a list of titles from Origo’s main site.
“Brussels has classified the statement which made the cheating possible on the vote”
“The EP has cheated on the Sargentini report’s vote”
“Soros agents have launched an international campaign against Hungary”
“Viktor Orbán’s facebook page is flooded with supporting comments”
The above three medium was chosen as they are considered the most influencing communication channels nationally.
One of them, M1 is still regarded as an independent channel despite its obvious commitment to serve the Fidesz’s hate rally.
Disseminating such tendentious coverage of this debate and result does raise concerns about the report’s point regarding the unbalanced broadcasting to the public, and this topic was not the first, neither the last.
Written by Hella Sára Könnyü and Tamás Rutz
Featured image: MTI/AP