March 2nd, 2020

Human rights and Greta on Hungarian state media watch list

Hungarian state media bosses told staff they need permission to report on Greta Thunberg and EU politics, and banned coverage of reports from leading human rights organizations, according to internal emails obtained by POLITICO.

Editors working in state media are provided with lists of sensitive topics, and any coverage related to the issues mentioned requires staff to send draft content for approval from higher up, the internal correspondence shows. In the case of Thunberg, the Swedish climate activist, journalists were told they need permission before they even start writing, according to one email.

Journalists do not know who ultimately green-lights the articles whose subject matter is on the list, said one state media employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisal. When something gets rejected by the unknown decision-makers, senior editors sometimes euphemistically refer to it as reporting that "fell in battle," the employee said.

Hungary is currently subject to the EU's Article 7 censure procedure, triggered when the bloc's fundamental values are considered at risk in a member country. The European Parliament launched the procedure in 2018, citing media freedom as one of many issues that gave cause for alarm. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's government has dismissed such concerns.

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Hungary's new patriotic education meets resistance

There is growing opposition in Hungary to the government's modified national curriculum, which aims to instil a spirit of national pride in school pupils.

Critics - including many schools and teachers' organisations - draw parallels with the Communist period, when the governing party imposed its own ideology.

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