Russian disinformation in Hungarian public broadcast media: complaint to the European Commission

The devastating war in Ukraine is one of the key challenges of this time in Europe, and especially in Hungary that shares a border with the attacked country. Russia has been using state financed propaganda to disseminate disinformation worldwide. Despite the restrictive measures put in place by the European Union targeting Russia Today and Sputnik, Russian war propaganda has been continuously disseminated in Hungary. The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union and Political Capital filed a joint complaint to the European Commission.

One of the main sources of Russian disinformation without proper countering is Duna Media, the Hungarian public service media. Duna Media’s operation includes several television and radio channels as well as a news agency. The public service media has been criticized for years of being heavily politicized and favoring the narratives of the Government and failing to comply with professional standards. However, when a war started in a neighboring country, the substandard nature of the public service media in Hungary became more obvious. The Hungarian Authorities enable the dissemination of Russian war-propaganda by not sanctioning the public service media in cases when it presents disinformation as truth. Although in some cases the public service media used a sophisticated method, as its programs did not directly share reporting by sanctioned media outlets, it still disseminated the same notions and ideas that serve the Russian narrative without providing context or countering arguments. In other cases the sanctioned Russian sources were directly quoted. This way the sanctions introduced by the Union fail to reach their goals and their impact is diminished by the public service media of a Member State without effective control by the designated authorities.

“In times of war, balanced reporting is crucial, especially if the aggression is taking place in our neighboring country and the aggressor state, Russia, is trying to deflect the blame for the war on Hungary’s allies. If domestic political actors disseminate the Kremlin’s provenly false narratives to a wide layer of Hungarian society, it only helps Moscow, as such rhetoric could make the Hungarian population question the fact that it is only the Kremlin that is responsible for this war.” – said Patrik Szicherle, analyst at Political Capital.

"The European Union has acted with exemplary speed and effectiveness against Russian war disinformation, and cannot allow the Hungarian public service media to circumvent the common European rules." -- said Stefánia Kapronczay, Executive Director of TASZ.

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