Hungary summons U.S. envoy over media funding plan

Hungary's foreign ministry has summoned U.S. envoy David Kostelancik over a plan to fund rural media outlets in Hungary, which Budapest considers a "political intervention" ahead of an election due early next year, Reuters reported.

The United States said on Monday it would devote $700,000 to fund rural media outlets in Hungary to help train and equip journalists in defense of an independent media it sees subject to growing pressure and intimidation.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has increased media control by legal changes, regulatory steps and takeovers of outlets by business sector associates. The moves have alarmed Western partners ahead of elections due in April 2018 which he is widely expected to win.
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has summoned the U.S. Chargé d'Affaires, asking for an explanation, and told him that we consider this a political intervention by the U.S. Department of State ahead of the elections," spokesman Tamas Menczer said in an emailed response.
The U.S. program offers technical and financial assistance to media outlets, as well as increased local and international exposure, small grants and other tools. They can use the funds after May 2018, after the election is due.
Hungary's foreign minister called the move "shocking and unusual". Péter Szijjártó said it was "not normal practice for a democratic country to start financing the media of another allied democratic country from its own budget".
At a news conference held on another topic, Szijjártó was asked why the US chargé d'affaires had been summoned to the ministry. Referring to the US initiative sponsored by the State Department to fund media beyond the capital through a bidding procedure, Szijjártó asked: "What is this if not interference in domestic affairs?" He said many questions had been put to the US State Department regarding the intervention, and the government awaited a response. One question, he said, concerned whether there were any other countries allied to the US that had received similar treatment. The Hungarian government "rejects the policy of interfering in the internal affairs of other countries; we do not do that and we also expect our allies not to do it," Szijjártó insisted. Referring to the timing, he added: "What is this if not interference in the internal political processes of Hungary during an election campaign?"
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, an intergovernmental human rights and media freedom watchdog, has said media pluralism has declined in Hungary.
Source: Reuters; MTI

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 November 2017 15:54