This is a Chapter of the Study “How does the media on both sides of the Mediterranean report on migration?” carried out and prepared by the Ethical Journalism Network and commissioned in the framework of EUROMED Migration IV – a project, financed by the European Union and implemented by ICMPD. © European Union, 2017.
How the Shock of the New Became a Polarising, Fearful and Toxic Story
The current migration crisis is a new experience for the Hungarian public and the media. Before the summer of 2015, the Hungarian media neglected the issue; migration did not figure in people’s minds and it rarely took prominence on the news agenda. I became aware of this when attending a workshop on migration and the media in Paris some years ago, organised by the Ethical Journalism Network, the Global Editors Network and the International Organisation of Migration. I was left wondering how much of the discussion is relevant to Hungary.
I had the feeling that although we have never faced migration, the issues brought up at that meeting which were of concern to colleagues from countries used to dealing with migration, figured also in the way Hungarian media has reported on its own minority Roma community – everyday ethnic discrimination, unconscious mixing of poverty issues with matters of race, political partisanship, and a profound lack of a common language to address issues of “the other”, as well as an absence of reliable and widely accepted facts and narratives.
Thus, on the one hand the Hungarian media was inexperienced when it came to reporting migration, but on the other hand it had rich experience of the editorial challenges. Soon after this workshop the Editor’s Forum Hungary and the Center of Independent Journalism organised one of their regular conferences on migration, preparing special ethical guidelines for reporting. At the time, not many were interested.
When migration became the hottest topic on the news agenda just a few years later, Hungarian reporters and media were largely unprepared and it was too late for reporters to refer to any guidelines or conference papers. To judge the nature and quality of the Hungarian media’s efforts to report on migration is difficult as the circumstances were extreme: hundreds of thousands of people came rushing through the country in a month; there was a mix of extremes — signs of panic and at the same time empathy within society; and deepening partisanship fuelled by government rhetoric and propaganda.