In Hungary, media freedom is a reality, not a myth

Publicated on: March 5, 2012

Ambassador Szapáry wrote a letter to the Washington Post emphasizing that the Hungarian media are as diverse as ever, and opposition voices abound.

Published in the Washington Post: March 3

Mark Palmer, Miklos Haraszti and Charles Gati’s Feb. 27 op-ed, “A free voice for Hungary,” suggested that media freedom is so restricted in Hungary that Radio Free Europe’s Hungarian-language broadcast should be restarted to provide balance.

Anyone with a genuine interest can see on the ground that the Hungarian media are as diverse as ever, and opposition voices abound. The writers suggested that CNN was dropped by one of the major cable companies because of government pressure. Senior management of that company, which is majority-owned by Deutsche Telekom, categorically denied this and said that it was a purely financial decision. Contrary to the writers’ claims, Klubradio, a station airing opposition voices, lost one of its regional frequencies in a transparent tender by offering less money than its competitors did. The decision was appealed, and the case is before the courts. Meanwhile, the radio station stays on the air.

Incredibly, the writers also talked about dictatorship in Hungary and attacks on the United States. Would such a country represent U.S. interests in Libya and rescue two American journalists from Moammar Gaddafi’s prisons? Would it erect a statue to Ronald Reagan and set up an institute dedicated to the life and work of former U.S. representative Tom Lantos and the promotion of human rights? Would its parliament enshrine the fundamental values of the West in the nation’s new Basic Law? The current Hungarian government has done all that.

Presenting a make-believe picture of Hungarian reality benefits no one but the extreme right-wing party Jobbik. The Hungarian left, which drove the economy to near-bankruptcy, is now in shambles because of the profound disillusionment of the voters. Like it or not, the bulwark against extremism is provided by the current democratic, conservative government.

Gyorgy Szapary, Washington

The writer is Hungary’s ambassador to the United States.

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