Following Anonymous’ attack against pro-government media platforms, Judit Varga fears for press freedom in Hungary

March 28. 2022. – 03:04 PM


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Following the attack carried out by the hacker group "Anonymous" against Hungarian pro-government news sources on Monday, the Justice Minister is worried. But the freedom of the press has been an issue in the country for a while. Translation by Andrea Horváth Kávai

“The world famous, leftist freedom of the press is being manifested” – announced Judit Varga, Hungarian Justice Minister on Monday, commenting on the early morning temporary attack the hacker group “Anonymous” carried out against multiple pro-government news outlets in Hungary.

The internationally renowned hacker group hacked a number of pro-government newspapers’ websites, and posted critical news on their front pages. They claim that Orbán is the Kreml’s trojan horse. Before introducing the Minister’s post it is worth taking a brief look at the state of the media in Hungary.

For many years the two most visited news websites, Origo and Index were allowed to function freely, but by now, they have both been brought under the influence of Orbán’s circles.

Telex itself was born as a result of our former place of work, Index being subjected to political pressure, due to which the entire editorial staff resigned. We have written extensively about the worrying state of press freedom in Hungary here, here, and here.

In the past few years, one of the country’s most watched TV stations, TV2 was also brought under the influence of those with close ties to the government. The daily paper, Népszabadság was forced to close down.

Most of the county papers, as well as the few hundred media which have been organized under the control of the KESMA foundation are parroting the messages of Fidesz.

Finding anything critical of Viktor Orbán and his government on these media would be an impossible task – even if one looked with a magnifying glass.

The strategy of the pro-government circles then, was not to start new media for broadcasting their own messages, but rather to acquire well-established, well-functioning, high-reach media. They used various methods to take these away from the editorial offices, and then gradually reoriented them in a completely different direction, in line with Fidesz’ political goals.

The balance and impartiality of the public media and MTI (the National News Agency), which provides information to the Hungarian news world are renowned far and wide. You can read a detailed account about how the latter functions here, based on accounts from those working there.

And it is in this media environment that – upon seeing the attack of Anonymous – Justice Minister Judit Varga is worried about the freedom of the press. “The world-famous leftist freedom of the press is being manifested. This morning, several Hungarian right-wing news websites were attacked and made inaccessible simply because they dared to say something different from the international liberal mainstream media. Is this what awaits us if the left-wing comes to power on 3 April? The shutdown of websites and harassment of journalists? Has the left-wing hired criminals for the campaign?” – writes the minister.

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