Hungary’s ministries, state-owned enterprises and government institutes have spent HUF 7.2 billion (USD 26 million) on propaganda over the past seven months from December 2015 to June 2016, reports Hungarian daily Magyar Nemzet. Moreover, two ministries have yet to account for their spending.
Leading the ministries with the most spent on public relations and political advertisements is the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office, commonly referred to as the “propaganda ministry”, led by Antal Rogán. During the period, Rogán’s ministry pumped almost HUF 4 billion into the state’s propaganda machine, the National Communications Agency. One portion of this was spent on popularizing the state’s sell-off of agricultural lands. The other was spent on popularizing the state’s anti-refugee campaign on billboards throughout the Hungarian capital.
The Ministry of the Interior, led by Sándor Pintér, is also high up on the list for the seven-month period, spending HUF 720 million.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, led by Péter Szijjártó, spent some HUF 600 million, as did the Ministry of National Economy, led by Mihály Varga.
“There are enormous discrepancies in the spending,” Hungarian Scocialist Party (MSZP) parliamentarian Attila Mesterházy said. “Some ministries spent almost HUF 1 billion while Ministry of Defense spent HUF 1.7 billion. . . . We can see that some ministries are spending lavishly while others spend close to nothing. Spending HUF 4 billion on propaganda on advertising and propaganda over the course of six to seven months is excessive . . . . And there are ministries that have not even accounted for their spending. They have told me to search for these figures on Kormány.hu [the government’s official website]. In other words, the Prime Minister’s Office doesn’t even know how much it is spending [on propaganda].”
Politics Can Be Different (LMP) MP Erzsébet Schmuck said: “It is very important that the opposition investigate the government’s spending in as many areas as possible, because whenever we scratch the surface we find something foul is happening and they start to cover it up. We will specifically address reviewing all of what the government is doing.”
Billions spent “monitoring the media”
But the HUF 7.2 billion on propaganda is not everything. The Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of National Development rejected a Freedom of Information request from Mesterházy on grounds that the information is available on the government website.
According to Magyar Nemzet, Kormány.hu does, in fact, list two contracts entered into on behalf of the Ministry of National Development. Both contracts, each worth billions, end towards the end of 2018. One contract was concluded with Médianéző Kft., a company owned by the Nézőpont Institute (which is closely aligned with ruling party Fidesz), in the amount of HUF 4.4 billion. Médianéző Kft. will be providing “media monitoring” services for the ministry. The other contract, signed with Századvég Gazdaságkutató Zrt., is worth HUF 4.8 billion. Századvég will be using this money to provide “media monitoring advisory services”.