Listen to BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos via Deutsche Welle Radio's Inside Europe
By BosNewsLife News Center
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)-- The founder of Central and Eastern Europe's first Christian news agency BosNewsLife says envoys of Sweden, the United States, and others have expressed alarm about the "Hungarian government's blacklist of journalists it considers a threat" including himself. Stefan J. Bos said he and colleagues on the list were meeting top diplomats during a lunch over the weekend at the Swedish ambassadorial residency in Budapest.
"They called it the Black List lunch. There were ambassadors and similar top diplomats of the U.S. Canada, Finland, France, Sweden and others," he recalled. Among those attending was U.S. Chargé d’Affaires David Kostelancik who earlier spoke at a gathering of the Hungarian Association of Journalists. "In a recent alarming development, some media outlets closely linked to the government published the names of individual journalists they characterized as threats to Hungary," Kostelancik announced. "This is dangerous to the individuals, and also, to the principles of a free, independent media."
Kostelancik stressed that "these media outlets have every right to criticize or disagree with the reporting of other journalists" but "to attempt to intimidate them and make their work dangerous is inconsistent with international pledges to safeguard free media." He added: "We must protect free press, even when it is critical of us, as it is the very foundation of democracy. The United States unequivocally condemns any attempt to intimidate or silence journalists."
The Netherlands-born Bos is the only non-Hungarian journalist on the list published by the government-media, including website 888.hu. Others on the list are all Hungarian or Hungarian-born reporters, photographers, and producers of international media such as Reuters, Bloomberg, ZDF, Politico and the English-language website Budapest Beacon.
"It was very encouraging to see that Sweden cares about our situation. The ambassador said we could regard them as our friends.
It's strange however that I have not heard anything yet from the Dutch embassy, though they know about the list," Bos added.
888-hu, which has close ties to the ruling Fidesz party, said those on the list are journalists “serving the interests” of George Soros,
a Hungarian-born U.S. billionaire, and philanthropist who is increasingly the target of attacks by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s
government. "Here is the list of 'Soros’s foreign propagandists," the site announced, adding the names and biographical details of Bos
and the other journalists working for international media outlets.
The government plastered the country this year with posters containing a photo of the grinning 87-year-old Soros, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, with the slogan: 'Don't let him have the last laugh,'" in the debate on migration. Soros is currently seen on billboards as part of a 'national consultation' about an alleged 'Soros plan' to bring millions of migrants into the EU.
888.hu said Bos and the others mentioned on its list are providing “a propaganda service” for Soros branded by Orbán as Public Enemy No. 1. Orbán indirectly referred to Soros and the blacklist when speaking to thousands of people on Monday, October 23, during a commemoration of the 1956 Revolution against Soviet domination in which some 2,500 people were killed.
"From today's perspective we can see that in the 20th Century, it was the military empires which caused problems in Europe," he said. "Now in their slipstream, new global financial empires have risen. They have no borders, but they have the world media and have bought tens of thousands of people. They have no solid structure, but they have an extensive network of media personnel. They are quick, strong and brutal," he explained, standing near the House of Terror museum.
"These globalized forces have taken over Brussels and many other member states. Until they win back their sovereignty, they can't possibly steer themselves in the right direction," he added, jeered by supporters waving flags and pro-Fidesz signs. "These empires are the cause of the huge waves of migration across the globe. They plan to try and make Europe a mixed continent..."
888.hu said the blacklisted 'Soros' propagandist reporters including Bos are neither “objective” nor “independent” and they “discredit"
Hungary in the eyes of the outside world. "Stefan J. Bos who reported from Hungary for German and Dutch public media" [among others]
"painting a rather one-sided picture of our homeland," 888.hu said.
"It was under the [previous Socialist government of Prime Minister Ferenc] Gyurcsány that Bos alerted the world of the dangers of impending Nazism, turning a blind to police terror, the unfettered looting of Socialists, and unprecedented state corruption," the site stressed.
The site also referred to the refusal by BosNewsLife News Agency to register itself with the government-controlled Media Authority. Bos said it would mean subscribing to journalistic guidelines set by the state and would threaten BosNewsLife's independence. He also said he had been critical of the previous governments.
888.hu disagrees. "Naturally, in 2010, Bos started to care about the rule of law, democracy and press freedom. As the star guest contributor for [non-government newspapers] Népszava and the late Népszabadság (1956 – 2016). Bos decided in 2011 that the Hungarian media laws are not applicable to him and refused to abide by them," the site said.
Bos said the list it is part of a broader government action against him and other critical independent journalists. "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs first declined to renew my accreditation. That was followed by an order to halt my radio, online and publication activities from my current address in the center of Budapest. Now they come up with that list. A reporter friend of mine compared it to the 1930s when step-by-step authorities started to limit the rights of Jewish people," he said.
Bos said he had received threatening messages with one saying: "Stefan, it’s a pity that it was not your family that was sent on holiday and executed in Auschwitz [concentration camp]. It would have been better because then you wouldn’t have been born...They should have executed those who allowed you to live."
Despite the threats, he pledged to "continue" his work as a journalist in Budapest "as long as possible, including writing about persecuted Christians for BosNewsLife and human rights in former Communist nations such as Hungary."
Bos said he believes he had been targeted explicitly for covering growing anti-Semitism, a Hungarian government crackdown on media and other previously independent institutions as well as stories on corruption and more recently refugees. "I reported on these issues for BosNewsLife, Germany's international broadcaster Deutsche Welle, Vatican Radio Worldnews, Dutch BNR Newsradio and other Dutch media, Belgium's VRT Radio and Television as well as U.S. outlets such as CBS News and Voice of America among others," he added.
888.hu claimed that the listed reporters in Budapest are spreading "views – masked as facts" and "do everything to label the Hungarian people and Hungary in front of the international media." 888.hu stressed that "international media, with a few exceptions, generally write bad things about the government because a small minority with significant media influence does everything to tarnish the reputation of Hungary in front of the world — prestige that has been built over hundreds of years by patriots."
It cited "those familiar with the situation of the international press" as saying that "foreign journalists work with zeal when a right-wing nationalist government is in power in Hungary. These same journalists turn a blind eye to outright theft when left-liberal governments are in power. We can modestly say that the reporting on Hungary changes in line with changes in government."
Several international organizations, including Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF), have expressed concern about the blacklist.
“These targeted attacks on journalists are extremely disturbing for media freedom and pluralism in Hungary,” said Pauline Adès-Mével,
the head of RSF’s European Union desk. “Such stigmatization of independent journalists who are critical of the government is unworthy of a democracy.”
Hungary now ranks 71st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.
Bos and other critics say that since the 2014 national election, Fidesz has used its massive media empire to run tabloid-like character assassination pieces on opposition politicians, members of civil society, independent journalists and anyone critical of the ruling party and the increasingly autocratic prime minister. "Government allies have steadily acquired control and influence over the media market, without objection from the regulatory body designed to prevent monopolies," U.S. envoy Kostelancik noted.
"Most recently, companies affiliated with pro-government figures acquired control of the last remaining independent regional newspapers. Journalists who work for these outlets— or who used to work for these outlets—tell us that they must follow pro-government editorial guidelines dictated by the outlets’ new owners and that they do not have the freedom to publish articles that are critical of the government," he said.
He added that the government also directs "substantial publicly-funded advertising contracts" to outlets of friendly owners, "and almost none" to independent media. "We hear reports that businesses are told they must not advertise with independent outlets, or they will face retribution."
He acknowledged that U.S. President Donald Trump has a turbulent relationship with the press. "My president is not shy about criticizing the media when he believes reporters get it wrong or show bias, and he is forthright in sharing his own perspective and advocating for the policies he supports," Kostelancik said.
"He criticizes news he believes is biased or inaccurate to try to change the narrative. [But] in the finest traditions of our free press, those on the receiving end of his criticism are quick to respond and make their argument about why they think the president is wrong. As they often point out, not every criticism of the government is “fake news.”
However, "Above all, there is one temptation to which we must not succumb: democratic governments must not attempt to silence their critics," he said.