Orbán and his Fidesz party achieved a third consecutive supermajority in the Hungarian parliament after a campaign primarily fought on an anti-migrant platform. International monitors would later complain about the campaign’s “intimidating and xenophobic rhetoric” and note that public television “clearly favoured the ruling coalition, at odds with international standards”.
The Guardian spoke to several employees of the taxpayer-funded MTVA network to hear the inside story of how its channels pumped out government messaging, and at times false stories, with the goal of winning support for the prime minister’s anti-immigration message.
The journalists recalled how the network would focus on negative stories about refugees and migrants, linking them to crime and terrorism. Even on the eve of polling, there was no letup, as the M1 channel incorrectly reported a van driving into a crowd of people in Münster, Germany, as an Islamist terrorist attack.
“I’d never experienced anything like that, even at MTVA: it was a clear lie,” said one of the journalists, “I think it created an atmosphere of fear. Pavlov reflexes have been created for words like danger, terrorism, migrants, opposition, Soros and Brussels,” the journalist said. “Tolerance is regularly criticised, while anti-immigration sentiment is presented as the only valid opinion. Sometimes the editor will come into the office on the phone and dictate a whole story to us, word for word."
Editorial directives produced by staff at the prime minister’s office are cut and pasted to give journalists talking points with which to carry out character assassinations of Hungarian citizens who are openly critical of the government.
Origo.hu is a popular news website. András Pethö, who was the deputy editor but left in 2014, commented, “I looked at Origo in the weeks before the election, and every second story had the word migrant in the headline.”