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Lo and behold: This is how the machinery that seeks to discredit Hungary works

The Magyar Nemzet is the main daily outlet of Hungary. Founded in 1938, the Magyar Nemzet (Hungarian Nation) is a reference journal for the conservatives of Hungary. The conservative newspaper is close to the current Hungarian government lead by Viktor Orbán.

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This article was published online by the Magyar Nemzet on 17 February 2022.

A French blog published staggering details about behind the scenes in the international press

While the daily newspaper Magyar Nemzet reveals in a series of articles how uninformed foreign journalists manipulated by NGOs misrepresent the situation in Hungary in their reports, a French blog published another revealing document concerning the topic. In the article, the Chair-Chief Executive of an international non-profit organisation, the World Association of News Reporters WAN-IFRA revealed how the press organisation he is in charge of took part in the smear campaign against Hungary.

– WAN-IFRA is partly funded by the Open Society Foundations, George Soros’s foundations.

– Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, WAN-IFRA generated a record annual sales revenue of EUR 9 million.

– WAN-IFRA is able to influence the management of media, advertising strategies and the wording of newspaper articles covering current affairs.

– WAN-IFRA circulates regular reports about newsworthy topics, and also organises individual information meetings attended by select groups of media workers.

– In addition to thousands of other press outlets, the system connects together media such as The Financial Times, The Economist, The New York Times, Le Monde, Die Welt, El País, Il Corriere Della Sera and La Repubblica.

– WAN-IFRA’s surveys regarding Hungary land on the desks of journalists who are not or are barely familiar with our country, and who seek to influence members of the public and politicians against Budapest with articles made on the basis of WAN-IFRA’s materials.

– The head of WAN-INFRA admitted there had been instances when the organisation had sought to put pressure on Hungary through the European Union and the European Parliament.

Hungarian electors will go to the ballots on 3 April 2022 to cast their votes in the parliamentary elections as well as in the referendum to be held at the same time, the questions of which relate to the sexual education of children, in particular, homosexuality.

Millions of people will vote in a country which is regularly branded by various media as totalitarian, the author of the blog wrote, pointing out that Europe’s and the West’s most prestigious press outlets regularly state that the person of the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán – even though democratically elected to lead his country – is a threat to democracy.

An opinion which is repeated ad infinitum by the above-mentioned media, in full agreement and unity, he highlighted.

Soros’s people are exposed one after the other: There is no trace of dictatorship here

Civil activists are fearful in public, but admit amongst themselves that NGOs in Hungary have nothing to be afraid of.

In the author’s view, the great harmony and common message could perhaps be explained by the system which connects together media outlets such as The Financial Times, The Economist, The New York Times, Le Monde, Die Welt, El País, Il Corriere Della Sera and La Repubblica as well as thousands of others, and which was created by an unknown organisation that has seats both in Paris and in Frankfurt.

Following this,

the author introduced WAN-IFRA, the World Association of News Reports in detail. According to this, WAN-IFRA works “to protect the journalists and publishers of the world, and to operate independent media,” extending its goals and activities to its own members, i.e. journalists and publishers.

The world’s press outlets mostly operate in corporate organisations such as publishers, while WAN-IFRA connects the world’s information industry together via its own members. At the same time, it provides services and expert assistance, mostly of a business nature, for its members.

Protecting its members and the media, and helping them in their business growth, this is WAN-IFRA’s publicly declared mission. However, the organisation also disseminates information, views and opinions in its system, thanks to its favourable position which enables it to have direct access to media organisations and their editorial boards. Direct access to the editorial teams of the world’s leading newspapers means and explains WAN-IFRA’s power with which they are able to manipulate anything they want to, from the management of media outlets through advertising strategies to the wording of newspaper articles covering current affairs, or all the way to how to handle problems and to even what to regard as a problem at all, the author highlighted. He then introduced the organisation’s top executive.

WAN-IFRA is headed by Chief Executive Vincent Peyrégne who in a professional career spanning three decades worked for such media players as the Sud-Oest Group, Libération, La Tribune or the Swiss Edipresse. In 1997, Mr Peyrégne joined IFRA (the predecessor of WAN-IFRA) and launched the organisation’s French and Spanish subsidiaries. Before taking over the management of WAN-IFRA in 2012, in 2008 he joined the Sarkozy Government as chief advisor to the Ministry of Culture and Communications.

Under Peyrégne’s leadership, prior to the coronavirus pandemic, WAN-IFRA generated a record annual sales revenue of EUR 9 million. However, WAN-IFRA’s funding practices and tools are in sharp contrast to its declared intention and goal of promoting the independence of media.

The organisation itself admits that it regularly sends reports about newsworthy topics and events to its members, and also organises individual information meetings attended by select groups of media workers.

However, WAN-IFRA makes strenuous efforts to conceal the fact that the information so disseminated within its network “can be financed” by advocacy groups and lobbyists active in a variety of fields. In the case of Hungary, these are articles that often originate from privately-owned foundations such as the Open Society Foundations funded by well-known American businessman George Soros who is highly active in politics.

WAN-IFRA’s projects launched against Hungary, insinuating that there is “soft censorship” in Hungary, were sponsored by the OSF. This is how reports and lobbying materials featuring contents dictated by the OSF could be published in newspapers and publications open to this kind of manipulation.

If the prime minister were left-wing, the media controlled by left-liberal journalists and the European Union would treat Hungary differently, Magyar Nemzet’s series of articles reveals.

The author of the blog drew attention to the fact that George Soros of Hungarian descent who is known to be a long-standing nemesis of the Orbán Government, naturally has a vested interest in manipulating the information that is published about Hungary. We must therefore ask a very important question: Could the news materials and opinions financed by Soros at WAN-IFRA induce the publication of reports in the international press that cast a negative light on Hungary? Did the flood-like campaigns of European media critical of Budapest convey actual opinions of their own, or did they perhaps go too far and become extreme due to reports funded by the OSF? WAN-IFRA most assuredly did not reveal the fact that they are the link between research funded by the OSF and media reports. Naturally, this means that there is nothing to stop private interests from using the international press with maximum discretion to shape public opinion according to their own interests, and to urge Brussels to take action against Hungary.

In private conversations, Mr Peyrégne put an end to guesses and secrecy, and openly spoke – though, naturally, he would never do the same publicly – about how exactly his organisation works, and made reference to funds provided by the OSF for WAN-IFRA specifically with a view to agitating against the Orbán Government and exerting pressure, the article reads.

According to the writing,

when Mr Peyrègne was asked whether it would be possible to exert pressure on Hungary via the European Union and the European Parliament, he said »But of course, it happened before.«

To be more specific, WAN-IFRA’s Chief Executive explained that “In actual fact, we’re part of those organisations.”

There are foundations such George Soros’s Open Society Foundations and a number of other organisations which are extremely active in Hungary.

“So yes, that, too, is part of our job. We, the WAN-IFRA Association are financed by these foundations. They’re mostly global and international agencies or foundations.”

When WAN-IFRA is looking for sponsors for its operation and projects, it exchanges the organisation’s mission – “the protection of independent media” – for crisp banknotes by accepting paid orders from interested groups for the manipulation of media.

When Mr Peyrègne was asked whether WAN-IFRA could be contracted for research related to Hungary, he said, “Yes, either WAN-IFRA or another organisation. If the job involved conveys some value for us, then yes, we can talk about it. You know, the research materials will later be circulated among the largest media outlets.”

Readers of the world’s largest newspapers may have got used to Hungary being regularly in the focus of attention, or even in the cross hairs of journalists. This is not a mere coincidence. According to Mr Peyrègne, this particular attention on the part of media workers is owing to “the data, information and reports that we write, in particular, about the manipulation of the press in Hungary. Hungary is a typical example of a country which, rather than resorting to direct censorship, applies soft censorship.”

Surveys made by WAN-IFRA of Hungary land on the desks of journalists who are not or are barely familiar with Hungary, and who seek to influence members of the public and politicians against Budapest with articles made on the basis of WAN-IFRA’s materials. They agitate against a country where media (including the members of WAN-IFRA) are free to criticise the government. Mr Peyrégne himself admits:

Many of our materials have already been published in Hungary.

As regards soft censorship, Mr Peyrègne said “We have published a number of reports on the topic, series of reports. This helps public opinion and influencers. And that is exactly our strategy: to find local supporters in a given (European) country in order to eventually win the whole of public opinion for ourselves. This is one of the most important parts and jobs of lobbying. You have to organise a campaign with a specific goal, and you have to see it through.”

While the campaign has not succeeded in toppling the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, it is nonetheless interesting to find out why mainstream media outlets stand for the exact same political position, or why they keep repeating the same narrative ad infinitum. Now we know: it is enough to see who finances WAN-IFRA,

the author wrote in conclusion.