German state media propaganda: ZDF wants to tell you a “real story” about poverty in Hungary

“In Hungary, poverty is not an issue that politicians care about,” German public broadcaster ZDF claims in a video about “Orbán’s poor Hungary,” presenting an extremely distorted image of poverty in Hungary that flat out contradicts the latest numbers from the EU’s statistical office.

I’ve been writing a lot lately, almost on a weekly basis, about German public broadcasters and their agenda-driven, biased reporting on Hungary.

Two weeks ago, when Deutsche Welle (DW) boss Peter Limbourg announced Hungarian-language programming with a promise to gift us poor, uninformed Hungarians with “real stories” produced from Berlin, I noted that this German media arrogance comes just in time for the 2022 Hungarian elections. While last week, we enjoyed an example of the kind of slanted, “real stories” we can expect from DW, their sister channel, ZDF, treats us to more.

In a recent video entitled “Orbán’s poor Hungary,” German public TV ZDF paints a distorted image of Hungary’s poverty situation. Yes, this is the German state television that provides a primetime slot for the man who compared the Hungarian prime minister to fictional serial killer Hannibal Lecter and proposed to set up an EU without the “stupid Hungarians and Poles.”

Introducing the everyday hardships of Roma people in a small village in one of Hungary’s least developed regions, the video claims that, in Hungary, “poverty is not an issue that politicians care about,” as it “does not fit within Orbán’s image of a beautiful Hungary.”

I wouldn’t deny that Hungary has poverty, but that sensational quote just does not stand up to the facts. According to data released by Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office, at the end of 2020, the proportion of Hungarian people living in deep poverty fell from a level of 23 percent in 2010 – that’s nearly one in four Hungarians – when the Socialist-Liberal government left office and Viktor Orbán become prime minister, to 8.7 percent in 2020. This means that while more than 3 million people were still at risk of poverty during the Gyurcsány-Bajnai government, since then, some 1.5 million people have managed to escape poverty.

In an EU-wide comparison, these stats rank Hungary in the middle of the 27 Member States, overtaking countries like Belgium, Italy, Spain and Ireland. What's more, the risk of poverty and social exclusion in Hungary fell from 19.8 percent in 2018 to 18.9 percent in 2019. This, too, is almost three percentage points more favorable than the EU average.

So, to the German public broadcasters in Berlin, there are many things I’d rather do than spend my time correcting your sloppy, biased, unprofessional, politically driven coverage of Hungary, but egregious distortions like this cannot go unanswered.