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Was ORF’s video report on Hungary biased?

October 11th, 2012

A right-of-centre blogger argues that the one hour report broadcast on Austrian Public Television ORF2 in late September was clearly biased, and wonders why the Hungarian political élite did not protest.

ORF2 editor Andrea Morgenthaler and Paul Lendvai, a Hungarian born Austrian journalist who also publishes in Hungarian left-of-centre media outlets, authored a documentary on Hungary under the title „National dreams – Farewell to Europe?”. Lendvai has been extremely critical of the present right-wing Hungarian government, and even accused the Prime Minister’s party of covert anti-Semitism in an article in the Vienna daily Standard on October 9.

Farewell to quality journalism” – this is how a commentator writing under the pseudonym Publicus in Mandiner describes the documentary. He notes that interviewees were selected from among the loudest left-wing critics of the Orbán government, while Foreign Minister János Martonyi only had two sound bites, 28 seconds altogether, to present his view. Moreover, the few pro-government interviewees were given no chance to react to the charges; e.g. that “Hungary’s cultural climate is still rooted in 44-45” as writer Rudolf Ungváry claims or that anti-Semitism is a very serious threat in Hungary – Paul Lendvai’s contention. Fidesz supporters are mentioned en masse, as „the faithful”, even though – argues the author – people who voted for Fidesz hold very different views and have very different reasons to support the present government. The author himself, as he notes, finds himself in agreement with the opinions expressed by the narrator on several issues, but finds them misplaced in a public TV documentary. They would better fit an opinion piece. All in all, Publicus concludes, the selection of subjects, the ominous musical underpinnings and voices borrowed from documentaries describing Nazi Germany, creates an extraordinarily biased presentation of Hungary – paid for by Austrian taxpayers.

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