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May 20, 2020 - Zoltán Kovács

They did it again: International media watchdog publishes lopsided report on Hungarian media, gets facts wrong

The International Press Institute, a media watchdog, is concerned about Hungary’s press freedom – again. Of course they are, because they talked exclusively to left-liberal sources. Their report contains nothing from a conservative journalist. Yet they call themselves “independent.”

Last November, an “international coalition” of seven “independent” organizations arrived in Hungary on a “fact-finding mission.” While it doesn’t appear they managed to find any facts, the group, including at least five Soros-funded NGOs, produced a document distorting the state of Hungary’s media landscape and purposely portraying the country’s press situation in a negative light.

Back then, this Soros-coalition made a colossal mistake, one that rendered the entire report essentially worthless: They quoted what seem to be exclusively left-liberal sources – nothing from a right-wing journalist.

Now, I’ve got a feeling of déjà vu.

This week, in an “in-depth” report entitled “Crisis point: Covid-19 intensifies challenge for independent media in Hungary” and published by the International Press Institute (IPI), a Soros-funded media watchdog and staunch critic of anything Viktor Orbán does, IPI Advocacy Officer Jamie Wiseman claims that “the Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated existing challenges for independent media in Hungary,” and that PM Orbán’s government “pursues tighter information control,” intensifying “its now decade-long campaign to discredit and undermine critical journalism.”

Reading it through, you will find that IPI has, once again, done little to maintain at least a façade of independence. The report sounds the alarm on Hungary’s press freedom by relying exclusively on the opinions of left-liberal journalists working for outlets that are staunchly critical of the Orbán Government, like: átlátszó.hu, HVG, 444.hu and the rest (yes, there are in fact many).

Why would anyone treat this seriously? And that’s not all. Many “facts” presented are sadly flat-out wrong. 

At one point, the report writes that PM Orbán used his two-thirds majority in the Hungarian Parliament to push through the Coronavirus Protection Act, “which implemented a limitless state of emergency and handed Prime Minister Victor (sic) Orbán unprecedented powers to suspend Parliament and effectively rule by decree.” (Check your spelling!)

That’s false. Hungary’s Coronavirus Protection Act does NOT grant Prime Minister Orbán “unlimited power.” These extraordinary powers can only be exercised to prevent, treat, eradicate and remedy the harmful effects of the coronavirus epidemic.

What’s more, the law does NOT dissolve parliament. In fact, it has convened every week since passing the act, according to its normal schedule. Additionally, under the provisions of the law, the government should inform parliament about any measures being taken; plus, the parliament can lift the state of danger at any time, and the adopted decrees will last only as long as the threat is present.

Speaking at the Government Info press conference last Saturday, Minister Gergely Gulyás even announced that the government aims to give back its extraordinary powers as early as the end of May.

Sadly, it’s becoming more and more obvious that these “independent” media watchdogs are intent on singling out Hungary and continuously applying double standards. Where is, I wonder, the “in-depth” IPI report on the state of the press in, for example, Spain, a country governed by a coalition of leftist and far-leftist parties where security forces have announced their intention to control public information “in order to minimize this critical climate aimed at the government’s action”?

Photo credit: The Well