Who is shaping the minds of Hungarians in Romania in the likeness of Viktor Orban / Budapest’s Objective: Uniting the Hungarian nation in the media landscape
A united Hungarian media space in the Carpathian Basin is a key and most effective tool in the implementation of Hungary’s National Policy Strategy for the reunification of the Hungarian nation in the Carpathian Basin, which, according to sociological studies, may result in a conservative and highly intolerant Hungarian minority in Romania.
The Hungarian-language media in Romania experienced a dynamic evolution after the fall of the communist regime, with several particularities characteristic of the status of Romanian citizens belonging to the Hungarian minority.
Freedom of the press is even more important for a national minority, given the role that the free press plays in preserving, developing, and expressing its ethnic identity. Hence the effort and insistence of the Hungarian community in Romania, immediately after 1989, to ensure an independent and functional Hungarian-language press.
Actions to suppress the freedom of the Hungarian-language press in Romania have existed, exist and unfortunately will continue to exist, both from internal actors or from the kinship state Hungary.
So what is the current situation of the Hungarian-language press in Romania?
The opinion leader, Kustán Magyari Attila, in his recent analysis of the controversy surrounding the participation of Hungarians in Romania in the Hungarian child protection referendum, gives a brief overview of what the Hungarian press in Romania is writing on the subject.
What therefore can we find in the Hungarian language press in Romania:
- The portal www.szekelyhon.ro exposes the Jewish Communist plot,
- according to the newspaper Nyugatin Jelen the rainbow colors war is already attacking 3-6 year old children in ballerina costumes
- the portal www.szekelyhirmondo.ro with its untrained journalists claims that gender is an „ideology”, and that being of a different sexual orientation than straight is an „ugliness”,
- the portal www.erdely.ma talks about men giving birth,
- in the daily www.kronika.ro gays and people of color attack the city,
- on the www.erdelyinaplo.ro portal they write that homosexuality is against nature,
- in an editorial on www.foter.ro (here) the author, among other things a political scientist and lecturer at the Faculty of International Relations and European Sciences of the Hungarian University of Transylvania – SAPIENTIA (you can see what is being taught to the students) states that „European values” are increasingly a drifting raft which the European elite considers a battleship. The whole analysis shows a decadent Europe that wants to impose values that some member states do not agree with, in this case the protection of LGBTQ minority rights,
Csomortányi István, the president of the Transylvanian People’s Party, in his interviews on the need for a child protection bill in Romania similar to the one in Hungary, and on the participation of Romanian Hungarians in the referendum on this issue organized by Hungary, repeats the entire nationalist discourse of the FIDESZ power factory, a party leader who was fined 5000 lei by the National Council for Combating Discrimination (CNCD) for posting a photo of himself performing the Nazi salute on his social media page.
If we are to interpret the Hungarian-language press in a broad sense, in the case of the Hungarians in Transylvania, we notice the countless nationalist articles that appeared in the Hungarian press organs, which are the information factors of the Hungarians in Romania. Thus, two articles with an obvious nationalist and revisionist content appeared recently in the Hungarian government newspaper Magyar Nemzet, the first article:
- In a text signed by Attila D. Balázs published on 26 July, the author writes that he hopes that „the 300 tons of gold and 1,600 tons of silver will remain in the homeland” (alluding to the gold reserves in the Romanian Rosia Montana mining town) and states that Hungary’s gold reserve is currently 94.5 tons. The publication also asks „since when does Rosia Montana belong to Romania?”, and the second article
- „One of the most important mining towns in old Hungary has become a UNESCO World Heritage site”, headlines the Hungarian publication, which concludes the article with the following message: „Let’s save the Hungarian Roșia Montană too!”
And if we add the comments to the articles published online in the Hungarian language press in Romania, we realize the high degree of nationalism and intolerance of the members of the Hungarian community.
But how did the Hungarian-language press in Romania reach this point?
With the coming to power in 2010 of Viktor Orban’s second government, Hungary’s policy towards Hungarians abroad underwent a radical change, based on a strategy of reunification of the Hungarian nation in the Carpathian Basin (i.e. including territory in Romania), a process in which the media is an extremely important instrument.
The present analysis presents the guidelines and key points, the role played by the Hungarian media in Romania in achieving the goals of the strategy of reunification of the Hungarian nation in the Carpathian Basin of Hungary.
In the fall of 2011, the Hungarian Parliament adopted the document „Hungarian National Policy – Strategic Framework of National Policy”, in which it proposes the reunification and reconstruction of the Hungarian nation in the Carpathian Basin as a remedy to the consequences suffered by the Hungarian nation as a result of the Treaty of Trianon.
Hungary’s national policy is mentioned in the above-mentioned Strategy in a systematic framework and provides for actions for the public authorities in Hungary and for the Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin (outside Hungary). The Strategy acknowledges that the action plans are aimed at Hungarians, citizens of other states.
Hungary’s National Policy Strategy sets out areas for action, with clearly defined goals, and one area of action is the media.
Thus, in point 3.2.14 (pages 48-49) of the Strategy, Hungary defines the role and purpose of the media in achieving the objectives of the document. According to the document, the Hungarian-language media has a unifying and informing role for Hungarians, so Hungary does cannot imagine that where there is no Hungarian-language press wherever Hungarians live.
The main goals set for the media field of action:
- creating a unified Hungarian media space, as it is extremely important that Hungarians become consumers of Hungarian language media. This goal does not exclude informing Hungarians about the agenda in the majority society they live in;
- a unitary media space supports thinking in a unitary Hungarian nation, with the role of shaping a Hungarian identity;
- media has a mobilizing role, this function must be used wisely in treating issues concerning the Hungarian community;
- the most effective media tools among Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin need to be mapped, i.e. the media consumption habits of Hungarians outside Hungary need to be continuously evaluated.
- all media channels are proposed for use, with a focus on the more modern ones, like the internet.
- support for children and youth in the media is a priority, ensuring access of Hungarians to Hungarian media, in particular to the public TV channels.
Hungary is working at all levels to create a unified Hungarian media space in the Carpathian Basin: it integrates Hungarians from outside Hungary in the media by setting tasks for the Hungarian public broadcaster, the Hungarian public radio, and for the Hungarian state news agency to integrate news about Hungarians from outside Hungary into their daily work, so that they become an integral part of the Hungarian nation in terms of communication as well. In this respect, news about Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin has increased significantly. The entire communication of the Hungarian state media is conceived through the prism of the unification of the Hungarian nation;
- it develops media infrastructure, a network of Hungarian public television studios throughout the Carpathian Basin with modern equipment;
- it develops human resources, and the training for Hungarian journalists to learn how to integrate Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin into the media;
- it created and developed a network of correspondents in the Carpathian Basin, especially in Romania, including in Bucharest;
- journalists and press managers are trained, and indoctrinated with the elements of the Strategy and the interests of FIDESZ;
- the aggressive acquisition of various private media outlets: print and online media, local radio and TV; the creation of a monopoly over the Hungarian-language media in Romania.
In parallel with Hungary’s actions, the Hungarian-language media in Romania has undergone a series of changes, with negative effects. The Hungarian-language media has faced and continues to face the same problems as the Romanian-language media: freedom and funding.
The lack of funding for the Hungarian-language media in Romania initially led to the withdrawal of Hungarian-language press and journalists from Bucharest, the first step was the move of the national daily Magyar Szo (later Uj Magyar Szo) from print to online and from Bucharest to Cluj Napoca. In other words, a retreat, a step towards regional isolation.
The lack of funding has also led to the withdrawal of Hungarian-speaking journalists from Bucharest, also to Transylvania.
Against this background, Hungary invested in the Hungarian-language media tools in Romania, indirectly buying print and online and radio stations. Those not indirectly owned by Hungary are financially dependent on Hungary.
In addition to the financial instrument, Hungary exerts pressure on that part of the Hungarian media in Romania which is owned by Hungarians with a political connection to the UDMR.
Thus, the Hungarian language press in Romania is facing a very high degree of censorship. Under these conditions, the Hungarian-language media in Romania does not fulfil its democratic role, with negative effects on pluralism among the Hungarian community in Romania.
Hungary is creating a Hungarian-language media in Romania in the image and likeness of the Hungarian media controlled by FIDESZ.
Romania is witnessing the creation of a unified Hungarian media in the Carpathian Basin (i.e. also in Romania), failing to recognize the importance of the Hungarian-language media in integrating the Hungarian community into Romanian society.
Where does this error in Romania’s approach come from?
During the communist regime, in the creation and consolidation of the Romanian unitary national state, Romania destroyed the Hungarian-language media.
After the fall communism, the Hungarian minority in Romania began to rebuild its mother tongue media, but without having a partner in the Romanian authorities, who, under internal and external pressure, resumed Hungarian-language broadcasts on the national television and radio stations.
Romania has maintained its strategy of limiting the Hungarian-language media, believing that its development could be a source of vulnerability to the Romanian state.
It is against this background that Hungary’s national policy strategy intervened, in this vacuum created by the competitive market, in which the Hungarian community in Romania has not been able to maintain its own media, and Romania has not directly or indirectly created its own Hungarian-language media tools, mistakenly believing that by indirectly limiting the existence of a Hungarian-language press, it was preventing the emergence of vulnerabilities to national security.
Romania directly finances only the following Hungarian-language media tools: Hungarian-language broadcasts of the public television station, Hungarian-language studios of the public television station in Targu Mures and Cluj Napoca, Hungarian-language radio studios in Targu Mures, Cluj Napoca and Bucharest.
These media entities also have independent journalists who have the courage to inform the public correctly about the topics on the public agenda. They are journalists trained under Marko Bela, who recognized the importance of a free Hungarian-language press.
All these journalists are subject to harassment and concerted attacks from Hungarian radicals or even from FIDESZ media opinion formers. Their harassment is especially strong online. Moreover, this harassment is also present towards any journalist or opinion-leader who expresses himself or herself against the ideological lines of FIDESZ or UDMR.
Romania does not directly or indirectly have any influence on any instrument in the Hungarian-language print and online media.
Media consumption habits of Hungarians in Romania
Like any strategy, its effectiveness depends on the implementation and on measuring the effects of the measures adopted. Hungary carries out regular evaluations of the results of the implementation of the strategy, it collects data of any kind, it carries out sociological studies, including on the media consumption habits of Hungarians in Romania (in annex – 3 sociological studies – 2019 spring, 2017 and 2015). There are sociological studies on Hungarian-language media consumption in Romania on an annual basis.
Thus, on an opinion poll conducted on 1198 people (over 18 years old) between 9-24 March 2019, in 16 counties in Transylvania, with a margin of error ±2.9%-, resulted the following data:
- only RTL Klub television is independent, a similar entity to PRO TV,
- M1 is the state-owned national news channel,
- Erdely TV – a Romanian station set up and controlled by the leaders of the UDMR,
- TVR – the Hungarian-language broadcast has only 18.8% audience share.
- Transindex.ro is the only portal in Romania considered politically independent,
- Index.hu at the time of the survey was the largest independent news portal in Hungary, meanwhile it has been acquired by the close FIDESZ group, as a reaction, more than 100 journalists, the entire editorial team, resigned, some of them later founded the portal www.telex.hu.
The measurements show a very worrying behavior regarding the media consumption habits of Hungarians in Romania. The Hungarian public broadcaster Duna TV and the private broadcaster RTL Klub have a viewing rate of more than 30% (76.3) compared to the first Romanian broadcaster Pro TV (42.3%) and the most watched Romanian broadcaster has a rate of only 23%.
Much more worrying are the trust rates of Hungarians in the information transmitted by Romanian channels, the percentages being half those of trust in Hungarian channels: 63% trust in Hungarian TV channels and only 36% in the Romanian ones.
In the online media, only the portal www.transindex.ro has a reasonable degree of editorial independence, www.maszol.ro is fully controlled by the UDMR leaders.
The editorial policy of the Hungarian-language media in Romania, directly or indirectly controlled by FIDESZ, aims at the formation of a unitary Hungarian identity in the Carpathian Basin and is subservient to Hungary’s political and geostrategic interests in the region.
As for the transparency of the financing of this media structure from Budapest, an analysis on this matter has been made by the Hungarian investigative portal www.atlatszo.ro. Thus, the investigation of atlatszo.ro shows the following:
„in three and a half years, until the end of June 2021, the Association for Transylvanian Media Space has received grants from the Hungarian government amounting to 7.45 billion forints (20 million euros at the current exchange rate). Thanks to these funds, within a few years the previously unknown association has become by far the largest media trust in the Hungarian press in Transylvania, with a portfolio so extensive that it is easier to list media organizations that are not part of it than those that belong to it.
It is not easy to get a picture of the size of this amount. In comparison, the annual amount granted by the Romanian government to the Hungarian minority – which is the de facto budget of the UDMR – is also 5-6 million euros, i.e. compared to the grants received annually by this association.
If we look at the balance sheet for 2020, the association had revenues of 18.2 million lei (EUR 3.6 million). Only the big players on the Romanian media market have such revenues, a market that is much bigger than that of the Hungarian community.”
Basically we are talking about a media trust, probably among the biggest in Romania.
In the implementation of the Hungarian National Policy Strategy, Hungary aims at the reunification of the Hungarian nation in the Carpathian Basin, establishing areas of action to this end. One area of action concerns the Hungarian-language media, which is perceived as a tool for shaping Hungarian identity in a united Hungarian nation. In this sense, the concept of creating a unitary Hungarian media space in the Carpathian Basin has been developed, through which the unity of the Hungarian nation in achieved in the media space.
Hungary achieves this goal by:
- integrating the communication needs of Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin into the organizational and communication culture of all public media institutions in Hungary,
- creating and strengthening the media infrastructure in the Carpathian Basin,
- creation and strengthening of human resources in the media in the Carpathian Basin,
- regular evaluation of measures in the Hungarian language media in Romania,
- periodical measurement of the effects, media consumption habits and opinions of Hungarians in Romania. Hungary carries out data collection on Hungarians in Romania in a programmed and strategic way.
In all this, Hungary gains direct or indirect control over the editorial policy of the Hungarian-language media in Romania. Hungary influences, shapes the mentality, the opinion of Hungarians in Romania, which is easy to measure in opinion polls.
The result: a Hungarian national minority in Romania formed in the image of Viktor Orban’s ideology.
According to the national survey – Barometer of Public Opinion – July 2021 conducted by Avangarde, the electorate of the UDMR is by far the most conservative in Romania, a result widely praised in the Hungarian press in Transylvania.
In the multi-state sociological research called European Values Study – Transylvanian Hungarians on the map of European values – carried out by the Institute for National Minority Studies in Cluj Napoca and presented in spring 2021, values were measured simultaneously in several states with respect to:
- trust in other people,
- xenophobia, racism,
- family and gender/sex roles,
- environmental protection,
- political values.
Thus, Hungarians in Romania would not like to have as neighbors:
- migrants – 54%, while for Romanians the percentage is 33% and for Hungarians in Hungary 47%,
- Roma – 52%, compared to 48% for Romanians and 45% for Hungarians in Hungary,
- Muslims – 42%, compared to 33% for Romanians and 38% for Hungarians in Hungary,
- people of other races – 38%, compared to 22% for Romanians and 28% for Hungarians in Hungary.
When asked how do you see the effects of migration on the development of your country? Hungarians in Romania answered as follows:
- 59% very bad and bad, while for Romanians the percentage is 21% and for Hungarians in Hungary 51%.
The Hungarian-language media in Romania escapes from the regulation of Romanian laws, for the simple fact that no one notices hate speech given the lack of resources for monitoring and translating published texts and, of course, readers’ comments on press articles.
Hungarian broadcasters broadcast without restrictions in Romania, which is fine, except that they are outside any legal control in terms of ethics and content of broadcasts, as the Romania National TV regulator (CNA) has no tools in this regard and the regulatory body in Budapest does not matter.
The effects of this media machine, an extension in Transylvania of FIDESZ’s „power factory” in Budapest, is to radicalize the Hungarian community in Romania, which is the most conservative community in Romania, even more conservative than the Hungarians in Hungary.
The UDMR under the presidency of Kelemen Hunor adapted very quickly to these realities, becoming a prisoner of FIDESZ’s media power in Transylvania. The UDMR’s room for manoeuvre is almost non-existent on this level, Kelemen’s party is the beneficiary of FIDESZ’s media machine among Hungarians in Transylvania, with most UDMR leaders tacitly agreeing with Viktor Orban’s illiberal values.
The situation gives rise to moments of hypocrisy, such as the UDMR’s call for Transylvanian Hungarians to participate in Hungary’s referendum on child protection. A simple question: why should I, as a Hungarian from Romania, vote in a referendum on child protection in Hungary, as long as my child is studying and living in Romania?
But until we come to an answer to this question, we cannot overlook the great manipulation on this subject, of purely electoral reasoning by targeting hate at a minority group, just to keep themselves in power. We Hungarians in Romania should better understand these manipulation techniques, because we have experienced them as victims.
Viktor Orban, in his policy of reunification of the Hungarian nation in the Carpathian Basin, aimed at conquering the „souls” of the Hungarians in Transylvania, practically pulled the rug out from under the leaders of the UDMR, but also from under the Romanian state in its relationship with the Hungarian minority.
Many will say that Viktor Orban is pursuing electoral goals, but this is a minor, secondary reason. The FIDESZ leader is seeking control, power over the Hungarian community in Romania. The votes of Hungarians from Transylvania in the Hungarian parliamentary elections can bring a maximum of 2 or 3 seats. Given the fierce electoral competition in Hungary, where power and opposition are neck and neck, these seats can be decisive in Viktor Orban’s retaining of power.
The Romanian state is currently only witnessing the expression of this unified Hungarian media space in Romania. By giving up financing and supporting the Hungarian language press after 1989, it has lost an instrument of dialogue and beneficial influence on the Hungarian community in Romania. How useful would a Hungarian-language state television station broadcasting 24 hours a day have been now?
Although international conventions recognize the right of a national minority to have access to the media in its state of kinship and the right of the state of kinship to finance the media of the national minority outside its borders, there is a major imbalance in the relationship between Romania and Hungary in this respect. Hungary has gone far beyond the limits of the rights provided for the kin state in relation to its minority in a neighboring state. Hungary has rewritten the canons of public international law in this area.
The union of all Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin is Viktor Orban’s Hungary’s desire to correct the historical effects of the Treaty of Trianon. We are in the presence of an atypical, hybrid revisionism, in which Hungary recognizes the inviolability of the borders established by international treaties, but undermines them through its national political strategy, creating a Hungarian world in the Carpathian Basin, i.e. in Romania as well, by connecting the Hungarian minority in Romania to the greater Hungarian nation with its center in Budapest.
Translation: Ovidiu Harfaș
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