European media that criticised Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s COVID-190 state of emergency have been asked to apologise by Hungarian ambassadors in the countries they are based.
International media freedom organisation, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the action which they say aims to intimidate reporters and puts more pressure on Hungarian Media.
In Austria, Hungarian Ambassador Andor Nagy posted a notice on the embassy website demanding that media outlets “apologize for repeating allegations” about parliaments powers and issues relating to media freedom
It continued that apologies are owed “not only to the elected government of Hungary but also to the vast majority of the Hungarian population…and last but not least….to your readers/viewers/public”.
Swiss newspaper Tribune de Geneve received a request for an apology from the Hungarian Ambassador Istvan Nagy. In Finland, two experts of Hungarian politics who criticised Orban were asked to apologise by one of his spokesmen.
In Sweden, Ambassador Adrien Muller complained on the official website about “a shocking display of dismissing Hungary’s right of reply” because Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter declined to publish his article on “responsible journalism”.
“After restricting press freedom in Hungary, the Hungarian government now wants to silence the foreign media,” said Pavol Szalai, the Head of RSF’s European Union and Balkans Desk. “Given the content of these apology demands and the tone with which they were presented, they clearly constitute an unacceptable intimidatory operation, one that could have a chilling effect on foreign newsrooms and their correspondents in Hungary.”
This is a tried and tested tactic from regimes including China. There have been many cases where Chinese ambassadors have openly criticised or even threatened journalists and media houses who criticise Beijing.
Last year, Exit revealed that Albanian ambassadors in several EU countries were sending letters, demanding meetings, and suggesting that journalists were “problematic” after their media published articles regarding the Rama government and the Opposition protests.
After several critical articles were published in two different Austrian media, the Albanian ambassador in Vienna requested to meet the editors and journalists responsible. According to sources, the request for a meeting was on the instruction of the Prime Minister himself. They declined.
Another article, written by a French journalist on the subject of last year’s protests included quotes from protestors as to why they were protesting. A letter was then sent by the Albanian ambassador to France, to the newspaper, highlighting the problematic journalist as they put it. The letter was followed up by a visit from the ambassador himself.