The Poor Mental State of Fidesz Media

Who writes the best smear about the opposition? It doesn’t have to be true

Orbánist media school forgets to mention journalistic standards in its curriculum.

It may start out as intentional corruption of standards but after some time passes and the next generation of loyalists won’t even know what standards they are disregarding. The Orbánist media school is a case in point.

It has been noted that Orbánist “journalists” don’t even know what journalistic principles are. They are not ignoring them, they genuinely don’t know them.

And how could they? Many were speed-recruited to physically fill the seats of fired journalists when their newsrooms were bought up by Orbán’s cronies. These new hires were then told to fill up the pages and they knew better than to write anything they were not explicitly ordered to write. Those people are not flouting journalistic principles – because they have no idea those principles exist.

Take the editor-in-chief of an Orbanized local paper who regularly asked for permission to run an article. He did so even after a new mayor was elected, who was not an Orbánist.  He emailed the new mayor to ask  where to send their articles for pre-approval from then on. He did so because had no idea that it is not customary for a newspaper’s editor to seek out politicians’ approval before publishing a piece. Politicians’ approval is his normal. Those who know otherwise have been fired a long time ago.

Or take the public media. Not only do the official news agency and the state broadcaster lie by omission. They give fake quotes to people and falsify news. They read up pre-written questions in interviews with Fidesz politicians – sent to them by the politician’s office.

When the reporters of the public broadcaster were told that they went too far in an attack of the opposition mayor they were honestly shocked. They went below and beyond before. They physically kicked opposition politicians out of their building and they were rewarded for it. If that was OK why is this attack not OK? How can poor loyalist media worker know how far is too far?

And now we know where the confusion comes from. Radio Free Europe has talked to students from Orbán’s state-financed culture warrior journalism school and found out that these people don’t even hear about journalistic integrity. On the contrary, they knowingly practice self-censorship and don’t bat an eyelid when they are given tasks to praise Orbánist politicians and smear the opposition.

In one example a student recalled an exercise to praise the foreign minister for negotiating an excellent deal with BMW – and write a smear piece about a certain opposition leader. The latter didn’t have to be true – it was noted on the assignment.

Another time they were asked what the most important news of the day was – and that was the day when a leading Fidesz politician and MEP was caught escaping a drugged gay orgy through the window in Brussels. Students decided that the most relevant breaking news of the day was a local football match. So they know what is expected of them. Not sure if they know what journalistic standards they are deviating from.

Students spoke on condition of anonymity because they don’t want to lose their scholarships. A promising start for future journalists who are promised places in the public media and other Orbánist outlets.

The school started in 2019 on a two-billion state subsidy to one of Orbán’s verbal henchmen. They built state of the art infrastructure and attracted students with a lush scholarship.

18-year-olds today can hardy recall a time when Orbán wasn’t the absolute overlord of the land and they haven’t seen much independent media growing up. They are all aware of the unspoken requirements of their positions.

Some claim they are totally allowed to express critical opinions, they just don’t voice it during their admission interview and they don’t do so in their classwork because they know what is expected. They practice self-censorship, it is in the country’s mental DNA at this point. And it remains to be seen what happens to those who allegedly put government-critical things in their assignments, whether they are just flagging themselves. At any rate, some students are removed for unknown reasons. Unknown to them and to their classmates.

The teachers all have solid Orbánist media credentials, and they are not fainthearted. And the words “it is not mandatory to study here” is spoken uncomfortably often to students according to the article. That also happens to be the “argument” when the public media is whipped into supporting Orbán without qualms.

Another thing students are not told is that they are supposed to be balanced or impartial. Or what a report is or how they handle sources. Some even called it a propagandist school, not a school of journalism.

And the same culture warrior foundation that launched this school is also training writers. So Stalinism is officially back, where journalists get ideological education and writers are expected to write ideologically correct masterpieces.

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