The decline of media freedom in Hungary is worrying: Journalists are financially struggling, political pressure is high, and free media are increasingly suppressed. Between paywall and unbiased content creation, the panelist 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 imposed 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 of 14 positions from 2018. Threats against free, independent, and objective media operators are intensified during the rise of populism across Europe. 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 both 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 an international symbol of «information and pluralism». «Hungarian media landscape changed significantly»: Unbiased information is needed, since «there are just a few independent media», some of which are based on «financial contribution from the audience». 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 political and social polarization, NGOs’ sustain as well as «advertisement is very important» to RFE/RL, which tries «to be as transparent as it can». As for the future, the paywall system could help independent news websites, since «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. Confirming that Hungarian public media are biased, the panelist said that «there is no chance of changing Hungarian media landscape» and therefore 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)