Little remains of Hungary's left-wing media

December 21, 2016

There is a media war, but this is no longer the media war of the 1990s, but merely a war against the media.

Translation of András Jambor’s editorial titled “With Olga Kálmán joining HírTV nothing effectively remains of left-wing publicity” appearing in Kettős Mérce [Double Standard] on December 18, 2016.

Olga Kálmán is leaving ATV to join HírTV.  What we know so far is that the decision was not about money.  But we can guess at the real reason.  Whoever has switched on ATV since the refugee crisis, or later who saw the Putinist foreign policy news about Trump or the Syrian civil war, can guess the direction in which the channel is going. Of course that does not mean ATV is turning into a Fidesz propaganda outlet, but we can forget it playing the role of the last left-liberal media.

Olga Kálmán is not merely the face of ATV, but a symbol of left-wing, political expression (whatever we may think of her accomplishments or her show).  The fact that she is leaving ATV for Lajos Simicska’s television, which cannot be said to be left-wing, means that ATV ceases to be the leader of that publicity, with nothing to take its place.

With this we can practically close the media war that has been waged since the 1990s. While those who actively followed events in the media might have closed it earlier, it has now become clear to everyone.

They destroyed Népszabadság.  Fidesz has taken over local media, for the most part.  The local papers owned by Mediaworks have already start firing journalists critical of the government.  168 Óra cannot be said to be left-wing or liberal. Its owner is connected to Rabbi Slomó Köves. This company owns a minority (roughly 20 percent) interest in Klubrádio as well, whose range has been limited to Budapest and environs.  A few weeks ago an unknown owner purchased Népszava, Szabad Föld and Vasárnap Hírek.  This is all that remains of the left-wing-dominated media.

But the situation is no better with the independent media.  TV2, Origo, vs.hu, Class FM – we can list the toppled, blocked, or bought up media products and workshops, and we know precisely that Népszabadság was not the final objective of the government’s media monocratic maneuvers.

The Hungarian media groups are at war, but the government is at work buying them up one after another, changing them, or closing down those products that do not fall under its purview, while the channels brought to life with corrupt money are unlimited resources with which to create new ones.

The departure of Olga Kálmán and the end of the With a Naked Eye (Szabad Szemmel) program announced on Friday (even if Antónia Mészáros gets a new program and Egyenes Beszéd [Straight Talk] continues) brings to a close a chapter in Hungary’s media history when the left-wing and right-wing fought to control the media.

Today Fidesz fights against a free press, against the press that is critical and not willing to peddle its propaganda, and in this war there is no point in looking to the past for explanation.  Those who relativize this with reference to economic causes (as in the case of the Népszabadság, whose circulation did not decrease in the quarter preceding its closure), are self-defeating.

Because without an independent media, there remains nobody to expose the erroneous steps with regard to public health care and education resulting from the government’s bad actions.  No one remains to investigate the corrupt cases and inform as many as possible, and nobody remains to offer protection to a citizenry threatened by political and economic abuse of power, whether we’re talking about evictions, unjust police actions, or underhanded economic abuses.

The media, even if we think it does not work perfectly, is the more reliable bulwark against those in power.  It is precisely for this reason they want to silence it.

There is a media war, but this is no longer the media war of the 1990s, but merely a war against the media.