Hungarian state media launches English language news service

March 16, 2015

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The new face of Hungarian State Media (illustration only)

By leaving coverage of the “New Hungarian Republic” demonstration until the end, the broadcast made it seem as though it was just another political rally, when in fact it was the latest in a series of demonstrations that have seen tens and even hundreds of thousands of Hungarian protesters taking to the streets over the past six months.

Hungary’s state-run media yesterday launched its first ever English language news broadcast. The show, anchored by Árpád Szőczy speaking perfect English, ran for ten minutes and covered March 15th celebrations in Hungary and abroad.

Despite giving an appearance of balanced coverage, the ten-minute broadcast featured a number of misrepresentations, distortions and outright errors.  Three-quarters of the ten-minute program was devoted to coverage of events portraying the government in a positive light.  The remaining two and one half minutes were devoted to opposition events in a manner that tended to understate their significance, both in terms of content and popular attendance.

The first half of the 10-minute broadcast was dedicated to coverage of the speech delivered by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in front of the National Museum.  The broadcast featured clips of the Prime Minster addressing a crowd of “tens of thousands” talking about the importance of “solidarity”, how Hungary is  “standing on the brink of a great era”, and how “the people of Petőfi and Kossuth can only smile when somebody tries to instruct them about freedom and democracy.”

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The program made no mention of several dozen hecklers or a fight that broke out during the speech.  Nor did it mention reports that all those attending the event had been personally invited, or that a number of the children attending the event had reportedly been compensated in one manner or another.

The English language program continued its coverage of March 15th celebrations with footage of President János Áder and Parliament Speaker László Kövér attending a flag-raising ceremony in front of parliament followed by footage of Orbán, Kövér and Áder distributing Széchényi and Kossuth awards at a ceremony.

At that point, instead of segueing to the massive civil opposition demonstration that took place Sunday afternoon, the program cut to footage of various opposition politicians addressing crowds which, by comparison to Orbán’s adoring legions, seemed very small indeed, beginning with a very isolated looking Levente Pápa, deputy chairman of Együtt (Together),  addressing a conspicuously small group of rather miserable-looking supporters.  The broadcast managed to get the speaker’s name wrong, referring to him as Levente “Pátkai” instead.Levente Pápa, not Levente Pátkai

Levente Pápa, not Levente Pátkai

Saving coverage of the civil opposition’s  “New Hungarian Republic” demonstration the broadcast featured footage of a few thousand people politely listening to speeches delivered from a makeshift stage in front of Budapest’s Eastern (Keleti) station.  Over footage of frumpy-looking protest organizer Zoltán Vajda reading a prepared speech, a voice announced that “addressing the demonstration, Zoltán Kész, a leftist newcomer to national politics, called Prime Minister Orbán a dictator, and said he had been steering Hungary towards Moscow all along.”

Zoltán Vajda, not Zoltán Kész
Zoltán Vajda, not Zoltán Kész

No mention was made of the numerous artists and civil leaders who spoke at the event, or of the fact that the centerpiece of the demonstration was the announcement that its organizers had submitted a 19-point referendum on Friday, news of which was enthusiastically received by civil opposition supporters who, by the end of the demonstration, numbered in the many tens of thousands.

Nor did coverage feature footage of  thousands of protesters marching from Budapest’s Eastern (Keleti) station to the Erzsébet bridge, chanting “Orbán scram” or “Fidesz mafia”

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Nor did the program feature footage of tens of thousands of supporters gathered in front of the larger, more impressive stage erected near the Erzsébet bridge.

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Most importantly, state media coverage of the demonstration made no mention of the “system-destroying” 19-point referendum submitted by opposition leaders to the National Election Office on Friday which opposition leaders hope will compel parliament to annul or at least modify anti-democratic legislation passed by the Fidesz-KDNP government over the past five years.

By leaving coverage of the “New Hungarian Republic” demonstration until the end, the broadcast made it seem as though it was just another political rally, when in fact it was the latest in a series of demonstrations that have seen tens and even hundreds of thousands of Hungarian protesters taking to the streets over the past six months.

Furthermore, the broadcast erred by referring to the independent civil candidate who won an important by-election in the Fidesz heartland, Zoltán Kész, as a “leftist”, when by all accounts he is a free-market conservative in the traditional sense of the term.

The final two and a half minutes featured images of Hungarians celebrating March 15th in Ukraine, Romania, Australia, New York and Phoenix, an interview with Fidesz MEP László Tökés in Romania, and a clip of former undersecretary for communications Ferenc Kumin speaking to a group at the Kossuth statue on Manhattan’s upper west side.