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Feb 19, 2020 - Zoltán Kovács

A tale of “independent journalism”

Independent, investigative journalism helps uncover stories and connections that would otherwise remain hidden from the public eye. It’s a good thing and should be promoted, except when it’s politically driven, biased and one-sided. The following case serves up a perfect example of the latter.

Earlier today, EURACTIV published an opinion under the title “A brief history of graft in Orbán’s Hungary.” It begins with this cute, little bio before the first paragraph:

“Szabolcs Panyi,” it reads, “is a journalist at Direkt36, a non-profit investigative journalism centre in Budapest, Hungary, and a guest author for the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s BTI project.”

The article then recites the tired allegations aimed at “exposing” Government-related corruption in Hungary. It’s long on audacious claims directed at government circles, but it’s rather short on facts. At one point, the author even cites the Bertelsmann Foundation’s BTI project (the one where he's a guest author) as some kind of authoritative source – essentially quoting himself. That’s why EURACTIV filed it under opinion.

But all you really need to understand the agenda here is that charming biographical text.

If you hadn’t heard of this journalist or Direkt36 before, nobody could blame you for taking them at face value. But don’t let them fool you; they are not who they claim to be. In fact, his bio should read more like a disclaimer, something like this:

“Szabolcs Panyi is a political activist at Direkt36, an organization funded by George Soros and engaged in biased, politically driven reporting critical of the Orbán Government and openly promoting a left-liberal, pro-migration agenda.”

Google him. I guarantee that you won’t find a single piece of his that “investigates” Hungarian opposition leaders, their dealings in the shadows, the European anti-corruption agency’s investigation of the fourth metro line contracts executed under the Socialist-Liberal government, far-right Jobbik figures raising the Nazi salute, parking-meter scandals in opposition-run districts, or former prime ministers and their fishy financial statements, just to mention a few examples. You won’t find anything like these for one simple reason: these “independent” journalists are paid to bash PM Orbán, the Hungarian government, and their own country.

Such a packed schedule, dominated by fierce political activism, of course, leaves no place for fair, balanced and independent journalism. It’s a shame to see EURACTIV become such an active participant in Hungarian domestic politics and serve as a vehicle for such unsubstantiated political charges.