The Hungarian internet TV fighting ‘propaganda’

BUDAPEST: Their studio is makeshift and their funds are mostly from the community, however HungaryYouTube’s flagship political channel is one of the few remaining voices in the country criticizing the government.
Partizan has become a key viewing point for hundreds of thousands of Hungarians ahead of Sunday’s general election, in which the nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban faces his closest fight for political survival in years.
Founder and presenter Marton Gulyaswho creates at least one discussion, debate or in-depth interview a day, says the aim is to “unleash the political imagination of the people”.
“The mass media here has no ambition to create public service content, only to spread government propaganda,” Gulyasa tall, bearded 35-year-old man told AFP.
“It has no effect on the people, instead it destroys and intoxicates public discussions and debates,” he said.
Partizan’s studio is located in a dilapidated, red-brick warehouse on the outskirts of Budapest. The channel represents a small fraction of the taxpayer-funded budget of some 350 million euros annually on Hungarian public broadcaster MTVA.
MTVA, whose modern headquarters are only a kilometer (mile) from Partizan, is faithful to the government line of the day.
The news items usually attack the EU, migration or the opposition and are currently causing a stir with Orban’s neutral approach to the Russian invasion.
The central European country currently ranks at 92nd, the second lowest in the EU in the annual press freedom index of media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.
Independent news outlets have largely been squeezed out by having their licenses revoked or replacing editors with government advocates.
During the election campaign, MTVA’s M1 news channel and radio stations attacked viewers with Orban-friendly texting.
M1 replayed Orban’s March 15 national day speech nine times the next day.
On the same morning, Orban’s challenger, provincial mayor Peter Marki-Zay, had only five minutes to draft his election manifesto on the channel, although it was the first time an opposition politician had spoken on the radio. M1 after 4 years.
Government Spokesperson Zoltan Kovacs denied that the media tended to favor Orban’s ruling Fidesz party.
“If you listen to the morning news on the radio, obviously there are different views and opinions,” he told AFP.
Partizan currently boasts more than 270,000 subscribers, a number that Gulyas says is growing dynamically, and the channel is funded by thousands of small donations.
“If you like what we do, please consider contributing,” said the presenter as he signed off on the election debate program with trademark points in front of the camera.
Formerly a vocal group manager, then a prominent activist who was arrested five years ago for throwing paint at the presidential palace, Gulyas founded Partizan in 2018.
Some government-linked figures dare not face the Partizan grilling, but the invitation comes Orban who also refused to debate the Marki-Zay challenger, cabinet ministers and politicians Fidesz did not have an answer.
“I wanted to get outside my bubble,” Gulyas said, “but he “concedes” that joining his show is risky for politicians.
A silly comment by Marki-Zay about Ukraine war in an interview Partizan was captured by Operation Orban.
“Asking fair and honest questions can weaken the opposition’s position, but I couldn’t do interviews any other way,” says Gulyas.
Agnes Urban, a media specialist with watchdog Mertek Media Monitor, said Partizan was “vulnerable because it could be shut down for any reason” by the internet giants.
“It depends on the decisions of the major digital platforms, such as YouTube to shut down, or Facebook to decide some of its content is inappropriate or illegal, or indeed if the European Union imposes strict regulations for future digital platforms, in these cases, Mr. Urban said.
Served as an employee of a public broadcaster from 2015 to 2019, Andras Rostovanyi31, leaked a hidden recording of an editorial meeting that revealed top managers instructing staff to raise politically sensitive topics with pro-government leanings.
“Some of my colleagues may consider me a traitor, but I don’t believe I am,” the former foreign journalist told AFP.
“In fact, my former bosses are the ones who betrayed the public service. I have done more public affairs than them, just for revealing this,” he said.

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