Reporters Without Borders, an independent international organization has compiled a ranking of countries according to press freedom. They call it the World Press Freedom Index 2012.
According to the World Press Freedom Index, 2012, Hungary has a “grade 10”, essentially the same as Spain and France, countries not often the target of criticism regarding their media situation. However the United States has a significantly worse rating than Hungary, a grade 14, and a ranking of 47, compared to Hungary’s rank 40. Yet many in the US feel they have a right to criticize Hungarian media freedom, while doing so on the pages of newspapers and media companies that enjoy significantly less freedom than their Hungarian counterparts. Greece is often criticized for its financial situation but not their media, yet at rank 70 they are far below Hungary.
Israel is extremely low ranked compared to Hungary, yet when reading the international press few news items criticize the Israeli freedom of press.
And finally let’s look at some countries that really lack at the freedom of press department:
Russia, Turkey and India are all countries which have serious trouble with press freedom, they are graded between 58-70. Now if we recall that Hungary had a “grade 10” we can see that if Hungary were suddenly become the nation with the best freedom of press in the world, it would not need to improve its grade a fraction of which would be needed for these countries to reach Hungary’s level.
The Hungarian leftist media in early 2011 tried to establish the lie that the “freedom of press in Hungary is no more”. They printed the lie on the front page of the political daily with the largest circulation, and spread it everywhere they could. But that message was too absurd, too radical to sustain for long. It had to be abandoned after the coming months offered no substantial evidence of any changes at all in the Hungarian media landscape. In fact many leftist organisations seemed to be and still are of the opinion that the media in Hungary is a tad too free. They regularly complain about articles published by right-wing papers, often followed by attacks on right-wing journalists and attempted intimidation through lawsuits and police reports. The last ones to complain about Hungarian journalists were a group of MPs of the European Parliament including Ulrike Lunacek. Apparently some Hungarian journalists pointed out that Urlike Lunacek was disgustingly lying about the Peace Walk for Hungary, trying to defame all participants at the same time. Instead of praising the freedom of speech and freedom of press in Hungary, Lunacek went on the attack and made it clear : the current level of freedom of press in Hungary is just too much for her to endure.
So after the original message was abandoned the new line of attack became the standard: “the freedom of press is in danger”. But the facts once again do not support these radical interpretations of the left-liberal critics. Everyone who actually consumes Hungarian media knows that there is little that they will not print and the intensity of the attacks on various government policies have only intensified since the acceptance of the media law. But not everyone of course can have first hand knowledge of the actual situation, this is where international studies such as the World Press Freedom Index 2012, come in handy.