Originally published in French on the website of the Observatory of Journalism on 21 January 2023.
The press is so “muzzled” in Hungary that it can freely go in for the most virulent Orbanophobia with financial support from Soros, work in collaboration with the French AFP press agency and the European Commission on a fact-checking project, and receive funds from the US State Department ($740,000) or from one of the largest groups in the European Parliament, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D). Once again, the myth of the “worrying” state of press freedom in Hungary is melting like snow in the sun.
Nyugati Fény, a media outlet that slams Orbán all day long
Much less professional than other Hungarian media outlets, Nyugati Fény, or “Western Light” in English, is a site that slams the Orbán government in a style that sometimes borders on the trashy and does not shy away from personal attacks.
This digital media outlet could almost be classified as sensationalist, as its rhetoric can often get quite crude. Many journalists working for more serious media outlets that are also critical of Orbán readily acknowledge this: Nyugati Fény is real rubbish. But its message is simple and clear, and allows it to reach a wider public than merely urban graduates: Western Europe is a garden of Eden, while Hungary is hell on Earth, with its population kept in misery and crushed by a clique of sombre kleptocrats who deserve the worst from Brussels.
The S&D group digging into its pockets
Our Hungarian colleagues from the Foundation for Transparent Journalism (Transzparens Újságírásért Alapítvány – ojim.hu) have just put their finger on a case which says a lot about the lies told by Western Europe’s mainstream media concerning the freedom of the press in Hungary.
The S&D group in the European Parliament pays Nyugati Fény to run an advertisement on its site. This is despite there being no upcoming European election campaign, not to mention the fact that S&D is not a party, but a group for which the Hungarian voters cannot vote directly, anyway. One does not need to be highly educated to understand how it works: the S&D group has found a backdoor way of financing this Hungarian media outlet. And it is a real issue from the point of view of the sovereignty of the Hungarian press and media market, according to our colleagues from ojim.hu.
A few days before this revelation, the founder and editor-in-chief of Nyugati Fény, Viktor Mandula, resigned. Only “sick minds” will see a link between Mandula’s resignation and the revelations that followed. What is certain, however, is that Mandula has never made a secret of his support for the DK (Democratic Coalition, the main opposition party in Hungary) and his allergic reactions to Viktor Orbán.
It is therefore in part with money from EU taxpayers, who finance the European Parliament and hence its parliamentary groups, that a Hungarian media outlet that constantly attacks Viktor Orbán is being funded. At the same time the French press, for example, while also being subsidised with taxpayer money, has been telling its readers for years that Hungary’s “free and independent” press (i.e., the one on the “good” side of the Hungarian divide) is being strangled by the evil Orbán. And that is not all!
Where it gets even worse
The S&D Group is currently going through a crisis due to “Qatargate”, a corruption scandal that broke out in December 2022 and implicates several of its members, who have been accused of receiving money from Qatar in exchange for defending this wealthy Persian Gulf country’s interests. The affair is of such magnitude – it now also involves Morocco – that the subsidized media had no choice but to talk about it and put the involved parties in the spotlight.
It is therefore quite funny to note that the S&D group’s Hungarian members – who tirelessly complain about “Orbán the thief”, “Orbán the corrupt”, and “Orbán the homophobe” – had socialist colleagues who for years were swimming in money from Qatar, a small country that serves as a base for the Muslim Brotherhood, practices serfdom, and is not known to be especially kind to homosexuals, let alone LGBT activists.
One will find the cream of the Hungarian opposition’s crop in this group. This includes those such as Klára Dobrev, who narrowly missed out on the united opposition’s prime ministerial nomination against Péter Márki-Zay to challenge Viktor Orbán in April 2022; and István Ujhelyi, a talented and intelligent socialist politician, who has been accused of receiving gifts from the Chinese authorities (an affair that was brought to light not by an obscure conspiracy site, but by Direkt36, a Hungarian investigative website with links to the Soros network).
Hungarian MEP István Ujhelyi taking a selfie with Éva Kaïlí, a Greek MEP and former vice-president of the European Parliament, who is currently being charged with and has been imprisoned for receiving payments from Qatar. Photo: mandiner.hu
Nyugati Fény, a media outlet close to former PM Ferenc Gyurcsány’s party
Unsurprisingly, Nyugati Fény, which was founded in 2015, is linked to the Democratic Coalition (DK) of Ferenc Gyurcsány, who was Hungary’s socialist prime minister during 2004–2009, as well as his wife Klára Dobrev, an MEP who was likewise a candidate in the 2022 opposition’s primary and currently heads the DK’s “shadow government”. Klára Dobrev is also the granddaughter of communist dignitary Antal Apró, who was an executioner of 1956 freedom fighters. Gyurcsány and his wife have amassed a considerable fortune and are professional politicians
It is common to say in Hungary that after Viktor Orbán (b. 1963), Ferenc Gyurcsány (b. 1961) is the second-most gifted politician of his generation – the one that got its start in the youth movements of the dying socialism of the 1980s and began hunting in the “democratic” jungle of the 1990s. As the man who was responsible for both the Balatonőszöd scandal and the 2006 protests, Gyurcsány acts as a scarecrow for Fidesz voters and the nationalist right.
But this political dinosaur is still alive and well, and is a sort of asset for Fidesz given the fact that he is so repulsive to many Hungarians. His DK party – currently the second-largest party in Hungary, with 14% of voting intentions – is the only political party worthy of the name within the opposition, and it has a real organisation that does not operate only in Budapest. While Gyurcsány advocates a “United States of Europe”, an idea that appeals to certain sections of Budapest’s intellectual bourgeoisie, he also knows how to use his oratorical skills to seduce voters in the countryside, something rare among the Hungarian opposition.
This is where a project like Nyugati Fény makes sense. It is a media outlet designed to attract a distressed electorate with its aggressiveness. The professional touch is also recognizable in another respect: the company Western Light s.r.o., which publishes Nyugati Fény, and which the pro-Fidesz media calls the “Gyurcsány blog” or “DK blog”, is headquartered in Slovakia. This is a well-known procedure in Hungary, as Slovakia is used as a tax haven by many cunning Hungarian entrepreneurs.
So this is how the mainstream media is making idiots out of EU taxpayers – idiots who are expected to remain unaware of where and how part of their tax money is disappearing into the European Parliament’s S&D group.