Hungary Today responds to HFP article: The pro-government foundation does not receive public funds

Dear Editor, 

I would like to point out some mistakes that took place in the following article about Hungary Today and its publisher, the Friends of Hungary Foundation. 

Szabolcs Nótin, editor-in-chief of the pro-government Hungary Today online paper.

Szabolcs Nótin

On the same issue, we have written an article earlier, fyi.

The Foundation has never received or applied for state funding and covers its operation costs exclusively from private and corporate donations. The Foundation is committed to transparency and has accordingly made available all information concerning its operation and objectives on its website. Please read our official “public benefit reports” here.

I consider it both professionally unethical and morally incorrect to mislead those interested in Hungarian public life with false information and deceptive conclusions, therefore I hope you will correct at least these mistakes.

Kind regards,
Szabolcs Nótin
Editor-in-Chief, Hungary Today

*

After receiving Mr. Nótin’s email, I asked a few follow-up questions. Hungary Today’s editor-in-chief was good enough to respond. Mr. Nótin informed me that perhaps the confusion surrounding the issue of state subsidies to a group called Friends of Hungary is due to the fact that there was another organization with precisely the same name, and with a similar goal of improving the image of the Orbán government in English and abroad, which then apparently decided to change its name, prior to this name being appropriated by Mr. Nótin’s foundation.

cadam-2015-3-1

Christopher Adam

The Hungary Initiatives Foundation used the ‘Friends of Hungary’ name formerly. Unfortunately, the Hungarian State Budget Act also used their former name in 2013. This is the reason why the ‘Magyarország Barátai Alapítvány’ – which mean in English ‘Friends of Hungary Foundation’ – is often criticized for using taxpayer’s money. In fact, we have never received state funding”–explained Mr. Nótin to HFP, in a follow-up email.

Not only did the Hungarian state budget “confuse” the name of the organization that they were funding (forgetting that the name had by then been changed and was picked up by another group), but so did the Prime Minister’s Office a year later. On June 19th, 2014, deputy state secretary Ildikó Kandra of the Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office’s responded to an access to information request from the Átlátszó.hu website. In her June 2014 letter, she kept referring to the Friends of Hungary as being the foundation that received state funds.

The Friends of Hungary Foundation established its online news site, Hungary Today, in July 2014.

Christopher Adam/HFP

13 Comments

  1. Charlie London says:

    I have stopped reading ‘Hungary Today’ because it primarily regurgitates Orban’s MTI news agency.

    And it gets a suspiciously high prominence in Google searches – paying for this are you?

    Using MTI just like all the other media in Hungary who are too frightened of hiring their own journalists and who can’t afford them anyway.

    In addition if a paper doesn’t toe the party line – the Fidesz line, the Orban line or the ‘self-censorship’ line – then the publication is starved of advertising revenue and goes out of business – as several have.

    You say you are not receiving ANY government aid – what not any? Not any revenue advertising government initiatives?

    I really do doubt that.

    But you ARE receiving a government subsidy by quoting MTI as often as you do.

    This is of itself a considerable subsidy for an online news channel.

    Then there’s the whippersnappers of course.

    Us Westerners are used to automatically auditing the source of their news and we in the UK know the difference between integrity and propaganda. After all we have the BBC and The Guardian. However as with a pluralistic press and press freedom we do get some excesses. This all comes with the territory.

    Poor Hungarians only have Orbans propaganda media – prominent above them? MTI.

    *******************

    The above is subject to not being confused about which organisation I’m talking about.

    If Orban’s government can’t get it right how do you expect us to?

    Change your name.

  2. Charlie London says:

    Just one other point.

    Orban is just so wily, that how do you know that government funds aren’t coming through your corporate donors – or indeed your private donors?

    For confirmation please publish your full list of corporations and private donors including amounts – as political party’s are obliged to do in the UK.

    Full transparency please and full public, historical scrutiny.

    • Christopher Adam says:

      This crossed my mind as well. While Friends of Hungary did publish financial statements, these group together private contributions into one generic category, so it is really impossible for an ‘outside’ reader to be able to tell which private corporations donated. But the reality is, as you have stated, that in Hungary sometimes public funds have a rather ’roundabout’ way of arriving to the desired recipient. Publishing a listing of corporate donors would bring some clarity…but, of course, there might also be privacy issues with doing that.

  3. Charlie London says:

    Yes – good point.

    Corporate donors owe it to their shareholders to declare donations in their name.

    Small private donations below a threshold can remain private.

    Corporate donors and large ‘privates’ should be transparently available.

    This is how it’s done in England. However with fast electronic payments lots of below-threshold payments can be made.

    However, with the oxygen of publicity, I believe integrity can be maintained.

  4. “Friends of Hungary” receives no government subsidy the same way as the Sancho soccer stadium in Felcsut (6 meters from Orban’s house) was built by “public donations”. The mafia government operates mafia style.

  5. “…costs exclusively from private and corporate donations.”
    “I consider it both professionally unethical and morally incorrect to mislead those interested in Hungarian public life…”

    Oh, I’m relieved. Then I’m not even interested in where the money comes from, enough to see what you do for/with it. ‘Cos seeing how much you know about moral I’m sure you would never bite the hand that feeds you. Mr. Notin, congrats, you have an extraordinary talent earning readers’ trust.

  6. György Lázár says:

    On a positive note… Mr. Szabolcs Nótin represents a new, more open attitude. He responds and from experience I can attest, he does that promptly and with courtesy.

    In the last five years, Hungarian diplomats accredited in the US stopped responding to questions. Nervous consuls Mr. Ferenc Kumin in NYC and Mr. László Kálmán in Los Angeles are not even willing to discuss legitimate questions and concerns. Apparently they have no diplomatic training and many of us feel that they do a great disservice to their government by operating in a “bubble” and cater exclusively to the small far-right Hungarian émigré community.

  7. Charlie London says:

    György

    …. Have you tried talking to them about football? Apparently that’s their expertise!

    But maybe you don’t have a low enough IQ?

    They probably sport Szijjarto style haircuts too.

    You could always engage them in discussions about hair jel.

    Better anyway than those Stalin moustaches that older Fideszniks sport – like Kover! Just!

  8. Dr. Habil. Andras Fodor says:

    Can you see how disgraceful and false your “Free Media?” This is why people in Hungary do not trust any more the so-called left. Because they are considered as liars. You wonderfully proved that. Karcsi from Soroksar poured a little more to the fire. He proves everyday of being an absolutely unreliable person. Every word of his should be considered as low phase.

    • Christopher Adam says:

      Dr. Habil András Fodor,

      Perhaps you should offer to write about this in Hungary Today. They seem to publish verbatim lots of MTI material, so you would no doubt bring some colour to their publication.

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