Viktor Orbán, the Prime Minister of Hungary, uses his propaganda machine to maintain his grip on power. A series of articles by various media outlets shed light on the inner workings of his propaganda machine and the methods he uses to maintain control over the media in Hungary.
According to an article by The Guardian, Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party has established a near-monopoly over the media in Hungary. The party controls much of the country’s media landscape, including newspapers, TV stations, and online media outlets. Critics say that this has allowed the party to control the narrative and maintain its grip on power.
An investigation by Le Monde into the workings of the propaganda machine reveals that Orbán’s media empire operates on a system of patronage, with loyalists receiving favorable coverage, while critics are ignored or attacked. The investigation reveals how the government rewards friendly media outlets with state advertising contracts, while withholding funds from those that are critical.
In an interview with Reset DOC, media expert Sándor Orbán explains that the government’s propaganda machine has been effective in shaping public opinion in Hungary. He points out that the government’s media control has resulted in a lack of diversity and an absence of critical voices in the media.
Critics argue that the government’s control of the media has had a negative impact on Hungary’s democracy, with the country’s media landscape increasingly resembling that of a one-party state. In an article for VoxEurop, media expert Gábor Polyák warns that the propaganda machine has created a “post-truth” society in Hungary, where facts and evidence are no longer valued.
Despite criticism from both domestic and international observers, Orbán’s control over the media in Hungary remains unparalleled.
Example of troll farms
The propaganda machine also extends to the use of social media, with pro-Orbán trolls and fake news sites flooding social media with misinformation and attacks on political opponents. The government reportedly pays the trolls, and the fake news sites are often registered to Orbán’s associates.
In 2018, one of the trolls active in the Fidesz party gave an interview to the 444.hu resource. One got the impression that this is a very sophisticated propaganda system that Kremlin trolls need to emulate. They spread not only those posts that praise the party, but also those that humiliate the opposition. In order to discredit the opponents, the virtual colleagues of each deputy candidate had to create a so-called “opposition page”, which pours the content of trolls on the local level.
He named three types of bots:
- New HÖK students or recent graduates are usually girls who consider this a great opportunity in their career;
- Old men, as a rule, from the village, who occupy some position of personal assistants, are not defined in the career;
- Young people belonging to a certain political group have their own meaning and see this as the key to their personal advancement. They understand mass media.
One of the central election headquarters likes to boast that he spent three months studying Trump’s election campaign in America and is trying to imitate it.
Masters of puppets
Antal Rogán, a 51-year-old ruling party supporter with a penchant for luxury, controls Viktor Orbán’s media apparatus.
The longstanding Orbán supporter runs a modest PR firm, with its main objective being to spread the message of the Hungarian prime minister through media such as bus stop billboards, newspaper editorials, chain emails, and Facebook posts.
Rogán, minister of the prime minister’s Cabinet, holds a key position in Orbán’s administration but maintains a low profile in the media. Many voters also recall Rogán being a key figure in Hungary’s contentious residency bond program, which opaque offshore firms managed on the government’s behalf.
At the cost of tens of millions of euros each year to the taxpayers, the farms above, administered by Rogán’s lieutenants and a group of young Fidesz loyalists, also organize so-called information campaigns, or national messaging initiatives, that denounce perceived adversaries of Hungary.
Although Rogán’s office was established in 2015, Orbán has attempted to centralize and regulate the media for more than ten years.
Under Rogan’s direction, the propaganda ministry has two main objectives: to maximize public support for Viktor Orbán-affiliated firms and to employ government-sponsored hate speech to instill fear in the Hungarian people and maintain their animosity toward refugees.
V4NA (Visegrad 4 News Agency), an English-language news organization, was founded in 2019 by Arpád Habony, one of Orbán’s well-known advisors. Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky, currently the Hungarian Defense Minister, completed the paperwork, and the firm was registered in London.
Russia Today no longer provides international news coverage in the domestic pro-government media; instead, V4NA does so. It appears to offer first-hand knowledge of the demise of the West. The “news agency” operates a network of around 50 journalists from this location, including those in “London, Brussels, Paris, Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Belgrade, and Warsaw.
Hungarian-language sources of fake news that serve the interests of the Kremlin are, as a rule, sites about which almost nothing is known. In general, they do not disclose information about the origin of their funding, nor about the identities of their editors and owners.
Sensing public fear of a war between Russia and Ukraine and its consequences, the Hungarian ruling party Fidesz quickly began to position itself as the sole guarantor of peace and security in Hungary, as well as the defender of Hungarian national and economic interests.
- if the United Opposition wins, they will send weapons and Hungarian soldiers to war, while Fidesz will ensure that Hungary stays out of the conflict;
- the opposition will undo the government’s long-standing success in maintaining low utility prices by bringing Hungary into war;
- Russian gas and oil cannot be substituted, and economic sanctions are ineffective and harmful;
- the authorities of Ukraine send representatives of the Hungarian national minority in Transcarpathia, first of all, to the most dangerous areas of the front, hide their losses for ethnic cleansing;
- local Ukrainian authorities humiliate representatives of the Hungarian national minority in Transcarpathia, and forbid them to speak and teach Hungarian in schools. Orbán himself periodically hints that Transcarpathia is the historical territory of Hungary;
- Ukrainians can defend themselves only thanks to the help of the United States and the narrative that the West will fight with the Russian Federation to the last Ukrainian;
- only Trump should be the interlocutor for the USA. As Trump said, this is the hope for peace;
At the moment, official Budapest is delaying the ratification of Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO. In our opinion, this is done in the interests of the Kremlin and to get more preferences from Brussels.
Viktor Orbán and his populist-nationalist government claim Soros has a secret plan to fill Hungary with migrants and destroy the nation.
But this did not prevent the Hungarian authorities from spending 100 million euros on a media campaign urging voters not to let Soros “have the last laugh.” They also introduced the “Stop Soros” laws, making it a criminal offense to assist illegal migrants and taxed organizations that support migrants.
Civil society organizations are also under more psychological strain concurrently with such legal measures. Hungarian Idok, a government publication, allegedly conducted investigations before the parliamentary election that claimed “Soros activists” intended to incite subversive disturbance in Hungary. After the election, a list of 200 “Soros mercenaries,” which included the whole staff of many NGOs, was released by the magazine Figyelo, which has strong ties to the government.
In addition, the Hungarian parliament enacted a special immigration tax in 2014 that imposes a 25 percent penalty tax on all NGO income that “promotes unlawful migration.”
But what about the Hungarians
Not all Hungarian politicians approve of such actions by official Budapest. For example, the opposition centrist party Momentum Movement is convinced of the need to support Ukraine in the war against Russian aggression. In January, the leaders of this pro-European party collected funds for energy equipment for Ukrainians and then came to Ukraine to hand it over and agree with Ukrainian officials on further joint initiatives.
In December 2022, the European Commission announced the freezing of 22 billion euros of funds intended to support Hungary until the government fulfills the conditions regarding the independence of the judiciary, academic freedom, etc. The EU is ready to fight the departure from democracy and corruption and understands that Fidesz is the European Union as an ATM.