'We must deny your request' – World Press Freedom Day in Hungary

May 03. 2021. – 12:56 PM

updated

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.

Dear...,
In response to your inquiry addressed to the Communications Department of the Ministry of Defense,
I inform you that, in line with the visitors' ban effective in all in-patient healthcare institutions of the country
as ordered by the Chief Medical Officer, we cannot grant you access for photography.

Best regards,
Ministry of Defense,
Communications Department

____________

Dear...,

There is a visitors' ban in effect at all clinics of the Semmelweis University,
just like at all other institutions of the country; therefore, photography
is not permitted at the clinic. Thank you for your patience and consideration!

Best regards,

Communications ad Events Directorate,
Semmelweis University

____________

Dear ...,

I hereby deny your request.

Best regards,
[Vaszary Kolos Hospital, Esztergom]

____________

Dear ...,

We forwarded your request to the financier, but they do not allow photographers during the COVID epidemic.

Best regards,
[Secretariat, Kiskunhalas Semmelweis Hospital]

____________

Dear Editor,

As it is known, the Hungarian Government has introduced a state of danger
in order to mitigate the effects of a human epidemic causing mass infections
and protect the health and lives of citizens. The state of danger places an increased workload
on the staff of the National Paramedical Services as well.
Therefore, we are in no position to fulfil your photography request.

We hope you understand, best regards:
National Paramedical Services

____________

Dear ...,

Our hospital allows photography in line with the GDPR. Still, under the present circumstances,
onset by the Covid-19 pandemic, no photography can be done without risking infection
(you cannot take any objects out of the COVID-ward, not even cameras or cell phones,
and the PPE does not guarantee that one wouldn't get infected).
As soon as the spread of the epidemic shows a declining trend
and photography becomes necessary, we will get back to your request.

Best regards,
Magyar Imre Hospital, Ajka

____________

Dear ...,

Responding to your inquiry, our Hospital requested the position of the State Healthcare Support Centre,
based on which we must disallow photography in our institution during the Covid-epidemic.

Thank you for your understanding, with respect,
Toldy Ferenc Hospital, Cegléd

____________

Dear ...,
Based on your request addressed to the Communications Department
of the Ministry of Defense, we must inform you of the following:

The complete visitors' ban ordered by the Chief Medical Officer
is still in effect in the Hospital of the Hungarian Defence Force.
For the reasons above, we must deny your request.

Thank you for your understanding. Best regards,
Ministry of Defense
Communications Department

____________

Dear ...,

In response to your photography request, I must inform you
that the epidemiological measures only allow healthcare workers
on the premises of the hospital's Covid-ward. Therefore, I must deny your request.

Best regards,
Balassa János Hospital, Szekszárd

____________

Dear ...,
You must submit your request to the Coronavirus Task Force.

Best regards,
Vaszary Kolos Hospital, Esztergom

____________

Dear ...,

Speaking for myself, I cannot rule out the possibility of a photo report,
although if you are still interested, I must request approval from the Ministry.

Best regards,
[Flór Ferenc Hospital, Kistarcsa]

____________

Dear ...,

Images and footage of Saturday's arrival of the Pfizer vaccine and the start of the vaccination rollout
are provided to the press through [public media holding] MTI-MTVA, as the virus still spreads quickly,
there is an epidemiological alert in effect, and visitors are barred from all hospitals.

Best regards,
Press and Communications Department,
Ministry of Human Resources

____________

Dear Editor,

The current epidemiological situation means an increased workload for the entire staff of OMSZ,
which makes it difficult, or in certain cases, impossible to respond to all press inquiries.
Besides this, there is a risk of infection, for which it is ill-advised for non-healthcare workers
to be present at the premises, therefore, we must deny your photography request.

Thank you for your understanding, best regards,
National Paramedical Services

____________

Dear ...,

We provide photographs to the press with the cooperation of the local correspondents of MTI and MTVA,
as the virus still spreads quickly, there is an epidemiological alert in effect, and visitors are barred from all hospitals.

Best regards,
...
PR and Marketing Manager
New Szent János Hospital

____________

Dear ...,

Images and footage of Saturday's arrival of the Pfizer vaccine and the start of the vaccination rollout
are provided to the press through [public media holding] MTI-MTVA, as the virus still spreads quickly,
there is an epidemiological alert in effect, and visitors are barred from all hospitals.

Best regards,
Press and Communications Department,
Ministry of Human Resources