Report: Government’s pressure on media grows

History

Last year the Hungarian media scene was chiefly characterized by the centralization of state advertising, growing government pressure on media outlets and overt political intervention in newsroom practices – including the forced removal of editorial teams – Mérték Media Monitor said today in its report entitled "Gasping for Air - Soft Censorship in the Hungarian Media 2014".

“While the state is continually engaged in media market interventions to take control of media outlets or reign in unruly media, recently some conflicts emerged between the governing party and some segments of the pro-government media as well,” according to the 50-page report, released by what is probably the country's top independent media monitoring group.

The report says that reorganization of state-owned television and radio channels “will further increase the risk of governmental pressure on the media market, and will also make it easier to rearrange the market positions of right-wing media”.

“The most spectacular scandal in the media market in 2014 was the removal of [Hungarian online daily] origo.hu’s editor-in-chief from his position,” following an investigative report on Cabinet Chief János Lázár’s foreign trip, the report says. “Many observers conclude that if such a huge company, especially one backed by German telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom, cannot withstand political pressure, then smaller Hungarian media owners do not have a chance.”

Based on Mérték’s investigation, the report says that “segments of the market that are financially and politically independent, and strive to preserve their professional integrity, have lost ground” and that “fewer outlets have the capacity to resist pressure”.

According to the opinion survey Mérték distributed to journalists, it appears that “the situation of press freedom has deteriorated in 2014, and that pressure on the media has intensified, with a concomitant surge in self-censorship”.

With regard to advertising, the report says that “the main beneficiaries in the daily newspaper, magazine, radio and outdoor advertising markets have been the same for years now (Metropol, Heti Válasz, Class FM, Publimont)”, adding that these companies are “obviously part of the [ruling] Fidesz-affiliated media empire”.

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