The crackdown on independent media has reached the stage of gleeful micromanagement and the final stab.
There are those things that are impossible to explain in two short words – the general attention span of a moderately interested foreigner. This is one of them.
The crackdown on independent media has been happening for the last decade. At some point in 2018, the fronts and oligarchs who supposedly bought up media outlets for themselves, totally privately, have gifted their holdings to Orbán’s new foundation on the same day, creating the EU’s biggest media holding under Orbán’s control (a thing Orbán’s aspiring autocrat fan girls like Austria’s Strache and Slovenia’s Jansa also covet for themselves). The foundation was quickly declared strategically important and taken out of the jurisdiction of any authority that might dare to investigate. (There isn’t any, but this way they don’t even have to pretend.)
Now this media holding is extremely well-heeled and even though they keep losing lawsuits before the last independent courts, they happily pay any fines. They are kept high on taxpayer money, getting massive funds to publish the “public service announcements” of the government (read: Fidesz).
In the meantime, their non-Orbánist counterparts languish, under continuous attacks by Orbán’s lackeys, competing who can deliver a yet another media outlet to the king faster. It is a long story to even list all the incidents and how blatant they were.
So that is the context, cut very short. And here is the news.
The Hungarian Post decided (totally spontaneously) not to deliver daily papers and political leaflets from July.
Why that is a move by Orbánists? Because their own outlets built up a delivery system for themselves a couple of years ago, while the last remaining daily papers often rely on their print subscribers heavily. Even Hungary’s biggest tabloid, Blikk, which is not yet Orbanized, will be hit.
As the director of a weekly told DW:
“”We were shocked when we found out,” says Csaba Lukacs, the director of the Hungarian weekly newspaper Magyar Hang (Hungarian Voice). His publication is, however, not yet affected by the postal service changes, “We are a weekly newspaper,” explains Lukacs. Still, he says he is worried “the Hungarian postal service could decide that it will no longer deliver weekly newspapers by the end of the year.” Lukacs says that would be a disaster for his operation, which has a print run of barely 20,000 copies, “because there is no other alternative.”
Magyar Hang is printed in the Slovak capital Bratislava because its publishers were unable to find any Hungarian companies prepared to print the newspaper, says Lukacs. He said the editorial board is already devising plans B,C and D for the event that Magyar Posta discontinues weekly delivery service.
He said one possibility would be to stuff 5,000 envelopes every Thursday with the newspapers and take them to the post office for delivery. But he said that would cost three to four times as much as the existing service, as well as being more time-consuming. Another possibility would be to sell the newspaper at kiosks and food stores. But as well as being cumbersome, those kinds of approaches would likely cost publishers subscribers, too. “As publishers of a small newspaper we cannot afford to build up our own nationwide delivery service,” Lukacs adds.”
And the leaflet ban will hit non-Orbánist parties who are left without any advertising options (those firms also being owned by loyalists and would rather leave their advertising spaces empty than selling them to the enemy) or budget.
Getting ready for the election year in 2022 Orbán is clearly intending to keep his cult members fully isolated and shielded from outside information.
And it is working. When a non-Orbánist blog shared Politico’s article about more EU-bought vaccines being delivered to Hungary than eastern autocratic prestige jabs, commenters were genuinely baffled by the news. “That’s not what I’ve heard” was the most polite reaction, and then they recounted the exact opposite version of events, as it was communicated through each and every Orbánist media channel.
Their lie is as good as your truth – especially since they are louder and your truth is increasingly silenced.