Are you sure?

Ministry summons U.S. chargé dʼaffaires over media tender

The United States Chargé dʼAffaires in Budapest, David Kostelancik,  was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the wake of publication of an open tender last week by the U.S. State Department for projects aimed at increasing access to objective media information in Hungary, press reports revealed Tuesday.

David Kostelancik, the United States chargé dʼaffaires in Budapest.

The U.S. Department of State published an open tender on November 7 with the stated objective to "improve the quality of local traditional and online media and increase the public’s access to reliable and unbiased information." On offer is funding of USD 500,000-700,000 per application.

According to information released by commercial TV channel RTL Klub and quoted by online news source index.hu, last week the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade briefly commented on the tender but did not make further remarks. But this week the ministry summoned the U.S. chargé dʼaffaires and asked for an explanation for the move, considered by the Hungarian government as political interference in domestic affairs before the general elections due in April next year.

During a press conference, Fidesz parliamentary group leader Gergely Gulyás called the tender "a repeated attempt at interference in Hungarian politics, which the American elite does not permit to foreigners, no matter where the money comes from."

In response to inquiries by RTL Klub, the U.S. State Department wrote that the funding will be paid in May next year, that is after the general elections in Hungary, and will be aimed at supporting local media in Hungary. It added that such programs are run in more than 100 countries all over the world to support freedom of the press, and the United States has expressed concerns over the state of the press in Hungary on several occasions.

An explainer about what happens when an ambassador (or chargé dʼaffaires) is summoned is available here, courtesy of foreignpolicy.com.