According to US NGO Freedom House, press freedom deteriorated considerably throughout the world in 2014. Their report published last Wednesday says Hungary’s performance in this regard over the past five years has been especially bad, exhibiting a level of decline similar to that of Serbia and Honduras, one of the most violent countries in the world.
In its country report on Hungary, Freedom House refers to last year’s politically motivated sacking of independent news portal origo.hu’s editor-in-chief, Gergő Sáling.
The first and last section of the ranking has not changed much over the years. Scandinavian and Benelux countries have the most free press. The situation is the worst in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and of course in North Korea.
Freedom House rates press freedom on the basis of each country’s legal, political and economic environment. The lower the total result, the higher the ranking. Last year Hungary scored 37, meaning that its press is only “partially free”, according to Freedom House. The result is just one point better than Bulgaria’s. European countries with even worse scores include Croatia (40) and Romania (42). However, most EU member countries are well ahead of Hungary, including Slovakia (24) and Poland (26).
The report highlights that in 2014:
- The administration of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán continued to exert pressure on media owners to influence coverage.
- Dozens of media workers protested the dismissal of the editor-in-chief of Origo after it published an article on the alleged misuse of state funds.
- The newly introduced advertising tax puts an unproportionate burden on independent RTL Klub.
- The government wanted to levy tax an internet usage but withdrew the proposal after a massive demonstration.
- The state and state-dependent advertisers advertise in the government-friendly media and many private companies fall into line.