The Atlantic

The Risks to Freedom in Hungary

The country’s independent media has largely been stifled. One of its remaining voices explains what it’s like to try to hold an aspiring strongman to account.
Source: Bernadett Szabo / Reuters

Hungary is a NATO ally, a member nation of the European Union, a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights—and also, since 2010, an increasingly authoritarian and illiberal state. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has politicized the country’s court, central bank, and media. On April 8, Orbán and his Fidesz party face the voters. Fidesz has recently suffered losses in local elections. Orbán has responded by running an inflammatory national campaign attributing complaints against his rule to the Hungarian-born financier, George Soros—a campaign whose anti-Semitic messaging has become more and more overt as the vote nears.

One of the last remaining independent media organizations in Hungary is . Non-state television and radio have been purchased by political allies of Orbán; print media have been brought to heel by aggressive use of government advertising money to reward and punish. I talked in March to the head of Direkt36, Andras Petho, about the risks to freedom in Hungary—and the prospects for holding Orbán to account. A condensed and edited transcript of our conversation, conducted via

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