Political cleansing in state–owned media outlets?
Thursday, 14 July 2011 09:09
Mass redundancies have been announced in state-owned media companies: in the public radio broadcasting company (Magyar Rádió – MR), in the Hungarian Television (Magyar Televízió – MTV), in the Hungarian Press Agency (Magyar Távirati Iroda – MTI) and in the autonomous Duna TV. About 550 people will be made redundant in the first round. It is obvious to many that the firings are not based on professional grounds, given that the majority of dismissed workers are well-known to the public and respected by their former colleagues.
The Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) called on the leaders of state-owned media entities to stop firings immediately. Socialist MP László Mandur, member of the Parliament’s Cultural Commission described the dismissals as a “professionally unjustified and humiliating political cleansing”. He said that the government’s true intention was to assume totalitarian powers; and that the ultimate (and the for now incomplete) phase of that was the manipulation of the judicial system. Following the conclusion of the Hungarian EU Presidency, the government’s next aspiration would be to achieve that – warned Mr. Mandur.
According to information from the news portal index.hu, already 9 out of the 13 trade unions representing workers at the public media have joined the call for demonstrations that will be launched on July 13th to protest against the dismissals. Law enforcement workers may also join in the protests that will last until the heads of MTVA [The Media Service Support and Asset Management Fund; in Hungarian: Médiaszolgáltatás-támogató és Eszközkezelő Alap, MTVA] puts an end to collective redundancies.
The Austrian liberal daily newspaper ‘Der Standard’ published an article on the dismissals at the Hungarian public media in its Saturday issue. “Although there are several influential people within the profession who think that state-owned media outlets are in need of reform and improvement, it does not seem like journalistic quality was the most important concern for the leaders of MTVA” – opined the journalist of Der Standard. “Not only that a number of talented young reporters will be let go, but also some long-time celebrities like László Benda, who, in the field of foreign affairs, gave a high profile to television programming and was awarded several times for this accomplishment” – the Austrian journalist noted.
The editor of Hungarian Spectrum, an English language blog about Hungary, put it this way: “The situation, especially at MTV, is most likely chaotic and wasteful. Yet once again it looks as if this necessary financial step is being used to change the political coloring of MTV even more. As far as I'm concerned, MTV was already under the influence of Fidesz even when the Socialist–liberal government was in power. But that doesn't seem to have been enough. The new leadership, as far as I can see, is stacking MTV with former employees of [right-wing TV stations] HírTV and even Echo TV. Or, when it comes to the radio, with employees of right-wing radio stations like Lánchíd Rádió”.