The huge change in the attitude of the press about demonstrations in Hungary was impossible to miss. The reasons are not entirely clear but anyone who looked at the recent coverage of various demonstrations in Hungary could not miss the difference between the press attention given to opposition events versus pro-government ones. An interesting comparsion would be to look at the coverage side by side by the same news organiztaions and sources, about the January 2 Opera protest and the January 21 Budapest rally considering the number of participants. Doing this for all news sources would take quite a bit of time so just two examples. The New York Times presented a detailed article complete with a picture of the crowd in the January 2 protest, a day after the event took place. They also covered the demonstration in one of their blogs and referenced them in various later articles. On the number of demonstrators they simply quoted the organizers. It is easy to compare that with their coverage of the pro-government demonstration : there is none. That’s right. The NYT refuses to acknowledge the very existence of that event.
While this is just an example, the biased and one-sided treatment of the news coming from Hungary has been getting some notice lately:
“The apparent decision of the mainstream international media to ignore almost completely this demonstration of hundreds of thousands of people goes beyond negligence” – says an article in the Daily Mail, continuing that “It disregards its duty of fair and objective information, the requirement of best practice journalism. Most importantly, it violates the principle of democracy to give everybody a fair chance to form an opinion based on untainted factual information.”
The article speculates that this is partly due to the Hungarian opposition launching an all out “war against the country” (György Konrad’s article being one example). The reason behind this according to the article is that “many opposition figures in Hungary, aggrieved by their monumental electoral defeat, refuse to accept their loss of power, and concomitant diminishing of political influence and economic privileges.”
But maybe a pro-government rally by its nature does not merit the same attention as an opposition protest. The article also compares the coverage of the recent opposition demos to people demonstrating in 2006, against the then-ruling MSZP-SZDSZ government:
International mainstream media reported this event with an abundance of pictures and details. Curiously, similar meticulously detailed coverage was conspicuously missing when the same socialist-liberal coalition then in power, resorted to brutal police force to intimidate peaceful demonstrators on the golden anniversary of the 1956 Revolution in October 2006.
Beaten up civilians dripping with blood, some with missing eyes after rubber bullets were fired by unmarked police units, and scores of demonstrators rounded up and jailed, were not worth of international concern.
Yet, clear-eyed observation would reveal the irony of the opposition and its Western supporters crying persecution and curtailment of freedom today. Anybody familiar with the Hungarian domestic situation knows that most of the media in Hungary is under socialist-liberal control, one of the numerous strange legacies of heavy-handed Western political influence during the transition from communist dictatorship.
The full article is here. And interestingly enough, the Hungarian media, which usually is very quick to report on articles dealing with Hungary has remained silent on reporting about this particular piece so far. Often such articles are summarized or translated almost word by word into Hungarian by portals like Index.hu and Origo and coverage in print media often follows.