The Poor Mental State of Fidesz Media

The Government Wants to Tell Who Can Be a Journalist

An old threat of forcing journalists into professional chambers has re-emerged. On the one hand it is yet another distasteful display of cracking down on independent journalism. But it is also a textbook example of how stupid opponents can be sidetracked.

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Source: yimmyayo Tumblr

Mandatory membership in professional chambers makes them the unchecked, feudal overlords of entire professions and their practitioners – everywhere in the world. But they are sold to the public as angelic protectors of the public. This is why weaker intellects find it hard to argue against the obvious intention behind registering journalists.

The idea is not new, the threat has been on the table before, but the time is now ripe to revisit the idea. Orbán gave himself a new 48% electoral supermajority in April, and he has always had a beef with the media.

The Fidesz-controlled media has been recently put under one umbrella holding because Orbán reportedly got fed up by his oligarch’s greed (they stole more than their allotment) and that his fronts started to believe they actually ran these outlets. The Fidesz-controlled part of the media now represents the vast majority of outlets and journalists  (‘journalist’ is a very generous description though in the case of the Fidesz media) and they are also the ones behind the proposal. They would also eagerly “volunteer” to join the chamber and accept its conditions. One of the conditions being that they must not employ non-registered journalists.

Non-registered journalist could be shut out of government press conferences – making the informal practice official, where independent journalists (or anyone who is prone to ask questions) are banned from Parliament.

The conditions of registration (or the denial thereof) are key. Would you give a license to a journalist who has a high number of lawsuits to his name? They can easily be sold as criminals to the public, even though that’s the hallmark of many investigative journalists. And what if they don’t happen to have a designated degree in journalism? Or not from Fidesz’ shiny, new public service university?

Actually, there is no need for written orders to discriminate against politically unreliable elements. Just give the chamber discretion over whom they welcome among their ranks – a proven way to enforce herd mentality, intimidate newcomers into the expected behavior, and denying livelihood of people who challenge the guild. This time, it would also enforce political subservience.

Possible opponents of the move are already disarmed. A licensed journalist would get a journalist’s minimal wage, for instance, to make it sound like a journalist-welfare measure. Or he could be promised all sorts of privileges that make the chamber easy to sell abroad. The public opinion doesn’t matter in Hungary, but if it did, they would surely be fed some line about journalistic integrity and ‘ethical commissions’, suggesting it is meant to keep things clean. But these guys would definitely get in.

Either way, opponents of the move are already sidetracked into debating whether it is “for the benefit” of journalism and the public or not.

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3 thoughts on “The Government Wants to Tell Who Can Be a Journalist

  1. Reblogged this on Goldstein and commented:
    Following the ancient Roman advice to always hear both sides of a story (Latin: audiatur et altera pars), I follow two excellent Hungarian bloggers who I want to recommend.

    One is the conservative blog Politics in Hungary. The second one is the liberal Meanwhile in Budapest.

    Both write from a marginalized perspective. Hungary is disrespected by the EU leaders. A conservative blogger does write in defiance of this overarching power although he has the back of his government and the vast majority of people. Within Hungary, citizens rally so strongly against the EU that the local opposition also ends up in a precarious situation.

    Meanwhile in Budapest reports that the government of Victor Orban tries to register journalists. This is very problematic.

    Since the Third Reich Germany divides its citizen into two categories: those who were granted a press card and those who were not. For instance, when the Edward Snowden story on the NSA broke, left-wing newspaper ZEIT started a campaign questioning whether press freedom can be granted to somebody like Glen Greenwald who were not a “real journalist.”

    In Germany, the press cards would be issued by the chambers and are recognized by the state. The fact that the cards are issued by non-governmental entities is to obfuscate the reality that these chambers do issue them in agreement with the goverment. They are even standardized by the “conference” (name makes no sense) of the Interior Ministers [of the States and the federal government] and called “bundeseinheitlichen Presseausweis”, meaning “nationwide standardized press card.”

    The German Wikipedia entry says [translated]:

    Journalists receive so-called journalist discounts (Journalistenrabatt) or press conditions (German: Pressekonditionen) upon showing the official press card. Numerous companies grant special conditions for journalists, perks and discounts on goods and services.

    This situation is now to come to Hungary.

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    • Press ID’s already exist in Hungary. They are issued by an NGO, the association of journalists (MUOSZ). A journo has to formally apply and get accepted – then pay a membership fee. The card gets you backstage at concerts and such. Not the nicest bunch, but at least membership is optional and outlets are free to employ non-members.

      The usual way the Party upends a sector is creating parallel structures. This new, shiny organisation would very likely work parallel with the old one, then maybe gets written into law and membership made compulsory (or heavily recommended). And of course they are hoping for a huge budget. Similar organisations like MMA for the artists boast an obnoxious budget, get prime real estate and dispose over plenty of money.

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    • So at the moment it is not proposed to make it mandatory, but an organization is introduced that might become compulsory, right?

      The details are hard to follow and maybe irrelevant. This is why press IDs as such must go. If somebody doubts that one works for a news outlet, he shall ring up the offices. I see these cards as a basis of corruption and I don’t see any benefits whatsoever.

      State control of the arts is also a big concern of mine. The reason why all German art is trash and you don’t hear from it is because it is all government propaganda and braindead fluff.

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