During Viktor Orbán's 13 years in power in Hungary, press and media freedom in the country has been severely restricted. This has provoked reactions and received criticism from the EU. In the picture, Viktor Orbán speaks before his EU parliamentary group, EPP, in 2014. Photo: European People's Party. Source: Flickr.

Development magazine explains

This is how Orbán's government has restricted press freedom in Hungary

Viktor Orbán regained the position of Prime Minister of Hungary in 2010. Since then, he has implemented major political changes affecting the democratic rights of the population. Journalists in the country are wiretapped and critical voices are silenced - despite the fact that freedom of speech and the press is part of the country's constitution.  

Democratic rights in Hungary have been significantly weakened in recent years. The country's government, led by Viktor Orbán, has restricted freedom of the media and press. 2011 implemented the Hungarian one governments extensive changes in the law which meant that they received greater control of broadcast, print and web-based media. The law changes could implemented due to Orbán's majority in parliament.

Today, Hungarian media is controlled by two independent but government-loyal authorities. They are tasked with regulating media content, appointing managing directors for public media and prosecute journalists for libel and defamation.

De facto, Orbán's party controls Fidesz 80 percent by the country's media. Under 2018 founded the Central European Press and Media Council (KESMA) by private government-friendly media companies, and KESMA today runs hundreds of publications, websites and radio broadcasts. The foundation's large media selection is a contributing factor to large parts of the Hungarian media sympathizing with Orbán. However, there are other independent media that also have a strong position in the market such as newspapers, websites and TV networks, according to Reporters without borders - as ranked Hungary 85 out of 180 in its 2022 Press Freedom Index.

Fidesz politicians deny wiretapping

Hungarian authorities have in several cases eavesdropped on independent journalists, businessmen and politicians using the spy program Pegasus, according to upp data from 2021. Hungary is it only member state in the EU who appear to have used Pegasus to eavesdrop on their journalists. A Hungarian parliamentarian who belongs to Fidesz has acknowledged the purchase of the program, but denied that it was used on Hungarians, writes Freedom House which rated Hungary as “partly free” in their annual Freedom Index from 2021. Despite the challenging conditions for journalists in the country, however, physical violence and groundless police interrogations are uncommon.

EU: "Hungary does not respect democratic values"

The restricted freedom in Hungary's media landscape has been repeatedly discussed at the European level. The European Parliament warned already 2013 for the risks that Hungarian media freedom faced with the legislative changes that had been implemented. In September 2022 stated the EU Parliament that Hungary no longer respects democratic values, and that the country therefore violates the EU's constitutional principles. Parliament called on the European Commission to, among other things, freeze financial means to Hungary to mark against the setbacks.

- Hungary is no longer a democracy. It was more urgent than ever for Parliament to take a stand, MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield commented in autumn 2022. 

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