Media Council warns national TV station for describing Jobbik as ‘far right’ party

Hungary’s Media Council has issued a warning to national private broadcaster ATV for describing Jobbik as a “far-right” party in a November newscast. Jobbik is Hungary’s third-largest party and espouses a far-right nationalist platform. ATV was reporting on a demonstration against a Jobbik MP who called for making lists of Jews in Hungary because he said they pose risks to national security. The Media Council will issue a fine to the private broadcaster if it continues to describe Jobbik as “far right,” according to reports. 

Jobbik issued a complaint to the Media Council objecting to ATV’s coverage on grounds that the term “far right” is associated with fascism and negatively influences viewers. Jobbik said it does not support fascism but rather is a “Christian nationalist” party. The Council decided in favor of Jobbik’s claim, saying the description violates the ban on influencing viewers opinions. Articles 12(3) and (12(4) of the Media Act specify that broadcasters must distinguish news from opinion. 

A May 2012 assessment by the Council of Europe warned that this provision in the Media Act could be used to “punish the exercise of effective independence by media,” and recommended this article be amended. This article was not included as part of the January 2013 negotiations between the CoE and Hungarian officials. Domestic NGOs have heavily criticized the CoE for its failure to pursue the full scope of the CoE’s own assessments. Five top civil society groups have sent a letter to the CoE urging officials to continue to pressure the Hungarian government to bring the media laws in line with the CoE’s May 2012 recommendations.   

In reaction to the Media Council’s warning, ATV has stated that it will not be intimidated by Jobbik and will not air the party’s anti-Semitic views. In late February, ATV broke a story about a Jobbik-affiliated student group at a Budapest university that has compiled lists of incoming students – and includes derogatory descriptions of new students’ religious and cultural backgrounds, and sexual orientation. ATV published excerpts of the student group’s file, which contains names of freshman students with attending notations,  such as “has an ugly Jewish head,” “stupid Lutheran girl,” and  “little liberal fag.” A district branch of Jobbik has issued a statement claiming that ATV falsified parts of the story and misused personal data by publishing the file.  

ATV is owned by Broadcast Project Szolgáltató Kft., which is held by a group of Christian foundations.