Press freedom in Hungary, it is safe to say, is in pretty bad shape. The past decade saw a sharp decline in the number of independent media organisations keeping a check on power, and there are more and more outlets directly or indirectly owned by politicians and oligarchs.
Every year, Reporters Without Borders evaluates the state of media freedom in 180 countries. After 14 years of continuous backsliding, Hungary now occupies the sorry 92nd position.
In 2006, we were 10th.
This decline does not only affect those working in the media, but everyone else as well, as their access to information diminishes. This process takes some freedom away from everyone by weakening democracy, which is why we decided to dream big, and create a new large, independent news portal that reports the facts, so readers get to make up their own minds.
In theory, the Hungarian state is committed to a free press, at least that is what it reads in the Fundamental Law: "Hungary shall recognise and protect the freedom and diversity of the press, and shall ensure the conditions for the free dissemination of information necessary for the formation of democratic public opinion." Despite this, access to public information is more than lacking in Hungary. Organisations of the state, people practising public powers, committees, ministries, politicians often disregard inquiries from the press.
During the first 100 days of Telex's existence, we have sent out 52 inquiries to different ministries and only received nine responses altogether.
We experienced a similar phenomenon in the public healthcare system, which makes reporting on the Hungarian aspects of a global pandemic incredibly difficult.
The Hungarian Government's Coronavirus Task Force regularly omits our questions from the daily press conferences, we have no access to hospitals, the National Paramedical Service disregards our inquiries, and healthcare workers are quite simply banned from speaking to journalists freely.
It is not our intention to disturb healthcare workers on the job. We want to report in cooperation with them, in the most suitable way. We are perfectly aware of the current extraordinary circumstances in the healthcare system, and we do not mean to pry or show patients in undignified situations or doctors at their wits' end.
Our goal is to show reality, shed light on the heroic work done every day by doctors and nurses, document the tragedies or the happiness of recovery. To put it simply, we just want to do our job: to report the facts of this historic event.
The media's role in granting access to information is vital in times when during a raging pandemic, there are still people who deny the existence of the virus.
Transparency is one of the key values of Telex, so on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, we decided to show what kind of walls we hit every day trying to report on the Covid-19 crisis.
If you believe a free press is a crucial component in a functioning democracy, consider supporting Telex here.