Hungarian state media cries 'coordinated international attack' over a Politico article

2020.03.03. 16:31

In a press release titled "Another coordinated press assault - this time with foreign aid," Hungarian state media denied Politico's allegations that reporters have to get consent from higher-ups before covering politically sensitive topics, branding independent media outlets as "fake news" for sending inquiries.

Based on internal e-mails leaked to the website, Politico reported that Hungarian state media employs censorship: there is a list of sensitive topics and reporters must ask for prior permission from higher-ups if they plan to cover them. State media staff have no idea who approves their drafts, if something gets pulled, a senior editor just tells them that their topic "fell in battle." The list features entries such as:

  • Migration,
  • Terror in Europe,
  • Brussels,
  • Issues concerning the Church,
  • Elections in EU member states and neighbouring countries,
  • and there are sometimes ad-hoc additions, such as Greta Thunberg.

The memo advising colleagues to seek consent before writing materials about Greta Thunberg was sent out by a senior editor in August 2019 on the same day the young climate activist embarked on her sailboat journey from the UK to New York to speak at the UN, and as instructed, Hungarian public media did not cover these in any way, Politico wrote.

It is also expressly forbidden for public media staff to cover any reports of non-governmental organisations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Responding to Index's questions on the matter, the press office of the Hungarian state media said Politico's information is "a lie based on conspiracy theories," adding that the daily editor must be aware of all topics the reporters are working on, but the state-owned media giant operating on approximately €260 million of public funds annually offered no further explanation to us. Later in the afternoon though, they published the following statement:

"Politico, that advertises itself as an independent medium, published an article today by a Hungarian journalist in which they dwell on the editorial principles of the Hungarian state newswire MTI, crying censorship over internal e-mails they acquired. Almost within the minute the article was published, state media immediately received questions from fake news websites Azonnali,, and The goal of their coordinated attack is to create noise around credible, restrained news service, this is petty revenge because last week, state media uncovered the fearmongering fake news websites are doing about the coronavirus epidemic. These articles are based on conspiracy theories, and their sole aim is to get the most readers by building on people's deepest fears. Public media adheres to the BBC's editorial standards. By attacking us, they are attacking these standards."

Cover: MTI / Zih Zsolt

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