Central and Eastern Europe’s Captured Media
Media freedom in Central and Eastern Europe is arguably at its lowest level since the region’s dictatorships were toppled in the early 1990s. With local oligarchs buying up outlets and foreign media operators fleeing the region, it is likely to deteriorate further.
BUDAPEST – In its March 22 edition, the Slovenian weekly magazine Mladina featured on its cover a cartoon of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán performing a Nazi salute while being hugged by right-wing politicians of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS). And Orbán, whose governments have asserted near-total control over his own country’s media, wasn’t taking it lying down.
The cartoon was linked to an article about the decision of the European People’s Party – a transnational group of center-right political parties that, since 1999, has retained the largest number of seats in the European Parliament – to suspend the membership of Orbán’s Fidesz party. The SDS had strongly opposed that decision, even threatening to quit the EPP if Fidesz was kicked out.
The Hungarian embassy in Slovenia reacted swiftly to the cartoon’s publication, demanding that the country’s foreign ministry “prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.” Zoltán Kovács, one of Orbán’s most devoted flunkies, slammed Mladina’s leftist sympathies in a blog post.