Hungarian state media coverage of Merkel visit omits critical remarks

February 3, 2015


“We’re a happy family!”

Hungary’s state-funded M1 TV channel left out some of the critical remarks offered by German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the course of Monday’s visit, in particular on the subject of dodging sanctions against Russia, the situation of civil society and media in Hungary, as well as her statement that she “cannot make any sense” of the term illiberal democracy. Viewers instead were presented with footage of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán shaking hands with Merkel, and lengthy excerpts of what he had to say at their joint press conference. The news covered the protest of the day without mentioning that it had been prevented by Hungary’s Counter Terrorism Centre from using the original venue.

According to the news program presenter of Híradó “both leaders emphasized that the EU cannot be competitive without Russia.” In reality, this was something Orbán emphasized. Merkel on the other hand called attention to the importance of finding a lasting, diplomatic solution to the Ukrainian conflict and to keeping EU economic sanctions against Russia in place.

M1 news also mistranslated what Merkel said about the sanctions. In their coverage the Hungarian voiceover translated her saying:

On one hand, Germany imposed sanctions on Russia. But on the other hand, we always emphasized the importance of a peaceful diplomatic solution.

In oppositionist private ATV’s coverage of the events (at 14:50), this sentence was translated differently:

Germany imposed sanctions on Russia, this was a joint EU decision, and we always emphasized the importance of a peaceful, diplomatic solution.

The original sentence presents EU sanctions as part of a process leading to a diplomatic solution of the Ukrainian conflict with Russia. M1, however, changed the sentence so as to imply that the German Chancellor contrasted the tool of sanctioning Russia to peaceful solutions.

One state media reporter asked Merkel on the spot about the possibility of a Eurasian economic cooperation. Her answer was reticent, emphasizing that such economic cooperation both with Ukraine and with Russia is necessary in the long run, yet right now the focus is on the solution of a war situation in Hungary’s northeastern neighbor. M1 only mentioned that Merkel emphasized the importance of a Eurasian cooperation.

Most of the coverage of the event both in Hungary and abroad underlined the visible disagreement between Merkel and Orbán at the press conference.  Híradó omitted from its coverage the whole concluding part where the two leaders openly contradicted each other on the question of illiberal democracy.

There was a short mention of Merkel’s visit to the Dohány Street synagogue, and with President János Áder, and a longer coverage of her accepting an honorary doctorate. In its coverage of her visit with students, Híradó only mentioned her reference to Orbán as a “good colleague” even though she had plenty to say that was critical.

The news program mentioned the protest which took place during the discussion, saying demonstrators were against the “Hungarian political system” but neglecting to mention that Hungary’s Counter Terrorism Center had only that morning barred protesters from holding the event at the original venue in front of Andrássy University, where Merkel delivered her acceptance speech.

Híradó later posted its full, uncut version of the press conference on its webpage, but this reaches far fewer people than their analog primetime news service.

Hungarian public Kossuth Radio featured an interview with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó in its morning program, in which he said “there were no surprises” during Merkel’s visit and “Hungarian-German relations have never been better.”

Referenced in this article: