The only way not to find Russian propaganda in Hungarian pro-government press is not to look for it

July 10. 2024. – 01:44 PM


The only way not to find Russian propaganda in Hungarian pro-government press is not to look for it
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his spokesman Dmitry Peskov in December 2023 – Photo by Sefa Karacan / Anadolu / AFP


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The Sovereignty Protection Office (SPO), which has promised that it would not be attacking the independent press, last week released a list of media outlets it says are spreading Western "pro-war propaganda" or the Russian state narrative.

Telex, 444, RTL and HVG, for example, were added to the pro-Western pro-war list, listing suspicious articles over seven pages. In comparison, they only detected two pages worth of articles containing Russian propaganda, naming Magyar Jelen and Russian News as their distributors.

They were likely looking in the wrong place for Russian propaganda, as some members of the Hungarian pro-government media have been regularly warning of nuclear war and the outbreak of World War III (which, in their interpretation can only be the fault of Ukraine or its Western allies), and they have also frequently cited Russian propaganda websites.

Below are just some of the examples from recent days:

Origo: Here is proof that Ukraine is using banned chemicals to do its killing on the front. This was originally reported by Russia's state-run RIA Novosti, and the news agency received the information from a Russian intelligence officer. There is not a single piece of evidence in the article besides it stating that the intelligence officer claims that the Ukrainians have used chemical weapons, albeit not very successfully.

Origo: NATO may implode. This article reports that the US newspaper The Hill published an article about why NATO is no longer functioning well. However, the source they cite is not the American article, but the Russian site, i.e. they reviewed a Russian review of an American article. The original opinion piece, by the way, was written by a security expert who is, among others, a member of the conservative-backed think-tank Defense Priorities. The organization essentially favors a restrained US foreign policy and disagrees with the US getting involved in regional conflicts. That's not to imply that his analysis or conclusion is 100 percent wrong, but since it's an opinion piece, it is probably worth taking this into account.

Magyar Nemzet: Could an American missile have hit the children's hospital? Three days after Viktor Orbán's peace mission to Moscow, Russia launched a massive missile attack on Kyiv. One of the missiles hit a children's hospital. The article in Magyar Nemzet mentions in two short paragraphs that Ukraine claims it was a Russian missile, but then goes on to make a lengthy argument, citing the Russian Government and Russian propagandists, that it is more likely to have been a Patriot missile. Meanwhile, the fact-checking site Bellingcat has produced a detailed analysis showing that a Russian Kh-101 had struck the hospital.

Pesti Srácok: Where did the missile that hit the children's hospital come from? In his analysis, UFO- and security expert Georg Spöttle explains that he also believes it more likely that it was a Patriot missile, but in the end adds that it doesn't really matter where the missile came from, as "the trajectory data can't help the victims". Spöttle is otherwise on good terms with the Russian government; in 2023, for example, he was invited to travel to the Russian side of the front as the sole representative of the Hungarian press, where he reported on a war taking place in an alternate reality.

These are merely the results of a 2-3 minute search. It is likely that even more examples could be found in a more comprehensive, longer-term analysis, such as the one carried out by the Sovereignty Protection Office. We sent questions to the SPO last week asking how it is possible that they didn't find any of the narratives in either the public media or the pro-government press (despite the fact that these sites occasionally run news stories that are also published in some of the listed media). We still haven’t received a response.

We previously took a more detailed look at how the Hungarian government-aligned press has been pushing Russian propaganda in this subtitled video:

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