Budapest Blues

On the podcast: What it’s like to be a journalist in Orban’s Hungary.

By , the executive editor for news and podcasts at Foreign Policy.
Protesters demonstrating against the right-wing government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban hold a rally in Budapest, Hungary, on April 14, 2018. Demonstrators demanded a free press and independent public media and new laws to ensure fair elections. (Laszlo Balogh/Getty Images)
Protesters demonstrating against the right-wing government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban hold a rally in Budapest, Hungary, on April 14, 2018. Demonstrators demanded a free press and independent public media and new laws to ensure fair elections. (Laszlo Balogh/Getty Images)
Protesters demonstrating against the right-wing government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban hold a rally in Budapest, Hungary, on April 14, 2018. Demonstrators demanded a free press and independent public media and new laws to ensure fair elections. (Laszlo Balogh/Getty Images)

To understand how Prime Minister Viktor Orban has cemented his power in Hungary in recent years and pushed the country away from liberal democratic norms, here’s a sobering data point: In 2015, Orban or people close to him controlled some 23 media outlets in Hungary. These days, the number is closer to 500.

This is how it happened: In some cases, Orban-friendly businessmen bought publications, fired the journalists and editors, and turned them into mouthpieces for Orban’s government. In other instances, the news organization was shut down.

To hear about the impact of this practice on Hungary, we spoke on the podcast to the journalist Anita Komuves, whose newspaper, Nepszabadsag, went through just such an ordeal in 2016. The paper had apparently angered Orban by publishing scoops on corruption in his government. The journalists who worked there woke up one morning and discovered their newspaper had been shuttered.

To understand how Prime Minister Viktor Orban has cemented his power in Hungary in recent years and pushed the country away from liberal democratic norms, here’s a sobering data point: In 2015, Orban or people close to him controlled some 23 media outlets in Hungary. These days, the number is closer to 500.

This is how it happened: In some cases, Orban-friendly businessmen bought publications, fired the journalists and editors, and turned them into mouthpieces for Orban’s government. In other instances, the news organization was shut down.

To hear about the impact of this practice on Hungary, we spoke on the podcast to the journalist Anita Komuves, whose newspaper, Nepszabadsag, went through just such an ordeal in 2016. The paper had apparently angered Orban by publishing scoops on corruption in his government. The journalists who worked there woke up one morning and discovered their newspaper had been shuttered.

Komuves is now an investigative reporter for the Hungarian website Atlatszo.

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