How the press reports on demonstrations in Hungary?

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 and Origo and coverage in print media often follows.

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2 Responses to How the press reports on demonstrations in Hungary?

  1. “The NYT refuses to acknowledge the very existence of that event.” No, it doesn’t. Not any more than YOU refuse to acknowledge the very existence of Brazil – you haven’t once mentioned that country in your blog!

    Oh dear, anyone who believes that The Daily Mail is actually a newspaper featuring journalists writing articles is severely deluded – it is a comic book for adults. The words are just there so that the people who buy it can pretend that they are able to read.

  2. ” No, it doesn’t. Not any more than YOU refuse to acknowledge the very existence of Brazil – you haven’t once mentioned that country in your blog!”

    Well, that’s true, but take into account that the blog is fairly new, still trying to develop and learning how to write good posts. Maybe Brazil will get its turn eventually 🙂

    But covering the peace walk was not entirely out of question for the mainstream press. They could have easily done it if they wanted to, even merging it with other news, like ALB at the Economist have done.

    “Mr Orbán was doubtless feeling bolstered by a massive demonstration in Budapest last Saturday, when at least 100,000 protestors (400,000, according to the interior ministry) took to the streets to show their support for the government. The protest, organised in part by right-wing journalists, was one of the largest since the change of system in 1989 and showed that the ruling party can still bring out far greater numbers than the opposition.”

    Yes not a standalone article, just a few sentence, yes there was no picture coverage of the event at all, but still they found it important to mention it. They found it important, guess for balance reasons or whatever.

    You are right that the NYT is not obligated to report any demos in Hungary, but when they give so much space to the earlier demo it can become odd. I should actually revisit this topic see if NYT had some coverage since then, and check a few more other news outlets. But at the same time a huge amount of new stuff is happening so I will see if I get around to it.

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