The decline of media freedom in Hungary is concerning. Journalists are struggling financially, political pressure is high, and free media are increasingly suppressed. Among paywall and unbiased content creation, the panelist of the conference “Politics and Media Freedom in Hungary,” organized by the Forum 2000 in Prague, talked about the media future in Hungary, as well as the recently soared government’s repression on independent reporting and the audience’s polarization. Illiberal, restrictive, and anti-pluralist policies on independent media by the Hungarian government seem to have become the norm in that country. Reporters Without Borders ranked Hungary 87th among 180 countries in 2019, downgrading it to 14 positions from 2018. In this regard, Martin Ehl, a journalist at Hospodářské noviny, stressed that aspect about the rural vote in the Hungarian countryside. Politics and media are polarized in Hungary: being impartial while reporting seems to be hard today.
A coalition of free media sharing quality news could be an innovative solution, though political and financial pressures undermine media independence. Gyula Csak, Director of the Hungarian Service of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, remembered that before 1990 this latter was a symbol of information and pluralism. “Hungarian media landscape changed significantly.” Unbiased information is needed. Tackling governmental pressures is a challenge for free media in Hungary. “Viktor Orbán has seldom given an interview to independent media.” In a moment of social polarization, NGOs’ support and advertisement are very important to RFE/RL. As for the future, the paywall system could help independent news websites. But “it is easier to convince common people to pay small amounts, than finding billionaires willing to do so in Hungary.”
This aspect was also stressed by the Director of Strategy at the Republikon Institute in Hungary, Andrea Virág. She said that “there is no chance of changing Hungarian media landscape.” Thus, “political opposition has to find another way to reach the audience.” Virág endorsed a possible coalition of free and independent media in Hungary, but that project is quite unlikely in an era of not only political but also mediatic polarization. “Independent journalists have their professional differences and business interests,” she said. Secondly, the “majority of news sites are in a bubble.” And unwilling to move in a centrist position when analyzing facts. Media independence in Hungary is a challenge. Financial means are crucial, but despite “almost all advertising market is controlled by the government,” “paywall system is working very well.”
(Published on amedeogasparini.com)