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Leaked Docs Show How Orbán Gov’t Dictates News to State News Agency

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Investigative reporting outlet Direkt36 has revealed, based on leaked internal communication, how the Hungarian government interferes in the day-to-day operation of state news agency MTI, and how it distorts the news in line with its own political interests.

In one case, Bertalan Havasi, Press Chief of the Prime Minister’s Office, sent an e-mail to MTI Director Zsolt Németh in November 2019 that said, “Hi, you could write an MTI news article about this using me as a source? Thanks!” Havasi had included in his email a letter to Viktor Orbán from a rabbi at the head of a European Jewish umbrella organization.

An hour later, he wrote another email to Zsolt Németh on the same topic. “Let this be the headline and lead, please,” he wrote, including a pre-written headline and introductory paragraph. Havasi’s suggestion became the headline and introduction to the MTI story.

Another internal email indicates that not only Viktor Orbán’s direct communication staff, but the Government Information Center (KTK) in Antal Rogán’s so-called “Propaganda Ministry,” also plays a role in what news is reported by MTI.

At the beginning of last year, one of MTI’s editors asked his boss for advice, writing that, “We got a call from the PM just now to ask if we could take down the Varga interview on Index.” Meaning, they had requested the news agency to write up a summary of Minister Varga’s interview.

The editor on duty replied, “No order has been received yet. Contact the KTK.” In other words, they needed to wait for the Government Information Center to decide whether it wanted the news agency to actually write the summary or not. [Magyar Hang]

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