Russia Today and Hungary

The story of how Moscow attempted to expand the Russia Today state television network to Hungary, by setting up a Hungarian-language affiliate, is both strange and murky. What we know is that Moscow was interested in establishing a state propaganda media arm in Hungary and the strongest and perhaps first high profile supporter of this initiative was István Lovas, a staunchly pro-Fidesz Hungarian publicist. As some of our readers know, we believe that Mr. Lovas may have published dozens of comments here on the HFP site, using a handful of pseudonyms and IP addresses, all within close proximity to his hometown, west of Budapest.

Mr. Lovas first raised the idea of establishing Russia Today in Hungary in 2014. He later claimed in his blog that Irina Zvonova, the cultural attaché at the Russian embassy in Budapest who spent five years in Hungary, contacted him and expressed serious interest in the idea. However, nothing came of the initiative, due to a lack of funds in the Russian TV’s budget and the decline in the value of the ruble–according to Mr. Lovas’ account.

More surprisingly, it recently came to light that Moscow never gave up on the idea of establishing a Hungarian Russia Today and allegedly contacted journalist László Juszt in the hope of entrusting the development of the Hungarian affiliate with him. This is surprising in that Mr. Juszt has generally been seen as a liberal, left-leaning journalist. The investigative journalism website Átlátszó asserted that in December 2016, Mr. Juszt allegedly met with Mihail Volosin, the head of Russian Industrial Investment, a foundation under the aegis of the Kremlin. Átlátszó provides key detail on this alleged meeting and claims the following:

“Volosin says that Russia Today is a Moscow-based multilingual television station, which intends to launch a Hungarian station in Hungary in 2017-18. They are looking for a prominent television personality, who can become the face of the channel and a regular host. Mr. Volosin knows László Juszt personally and he respects his several decades of work. This is why he recommended him to the headquarters in Moscow. The recommendation was accepted by Moscow headquarters and László Juszt was honoured by the offer.”

László Juszt

According to Átlátszó, Mr. Juszt and the Russian partner allegedly agreed on many of the details, including a 2 million forint monthly salary ($9,000), plus benefits (such as the use of a vehicle and a telephone).

Despite what appears to have been the advanced stage of negotiations, the deal was reportedly cancelled by Moscow, after Russian officials read a piece on the Átlátszó website, which alleged that Mr. Juszt may have had connections with the Russian underworld. Mr. Juszt launched legal action against Átlátszó and is demanding 5 million forints in damages due to this claim.

Russia has already developed a clear presence in Hungary’s media world and not only through pro-Russian organizations like the country’s Echo TV network. Over the years, dozens of news sites have sprung up in Hungary, which are widely suspected of being connected in a clandestine manner to the Russian state. Among the most prominent of these is a site called Orientalista.hu, which bills itself as “the voice of the east.” The Hungarian-language site’s articles are generally anti-American, tend to propagate conspiracy theories about collusion between the U.S. and ISIS in Syria and its editorial slant is explicitly pro-Putin, especially on matters of foreign policy.

Almost nothing is known about the site’s editors and authors, as they generally use pseudonyms like “Crusader,” “Gladiator,” “Johnny Red,” “Syriana,” and “Jack Fall.” The editor-in-chief is listed as “Kassab Adonis.”

The murky world of Russia’s presence in the Hungarian media is certainly deep.

4 Comments

  1. Well. Every coin have two sides, and we need to look at both sides. In the case that a business organization wants to spend money in any country, let them. To look at information from both sides is also beneficial. Since it also open a window upon Russia itself, that can be useful against Russia’s very interest and political intent.

    But knowing Russia’s interest, that is NO different than it was before the collapse of the old soviet empire, one must be able to take advantage for ones own good, in this case would be Hungary, and use it for their own interest. But really doubt if they would be able and up to it.

  2. Just so ridiculous to write after Mr Bendeguz daily wisdom:)
    So murky it is.. Knowing a big part of Mr. Juszt 4 decades in the media it is just hard to fathom, but everything is possible. With Lovas we also know, what to expect…
    Juszt has been against this regime very loudly and had hundreds of law suits with this government. I don’t know, what to think..

  3. I don’t know about “Russia Today” in Hungary, but Russia seems to be very much in Hungary today having Orbàn by the ba..s somehow.

  4. “As some of our readers know, we believe that Mr. Lovas may have published dozens of comments here on the HFP site, using a handful of pseudonyms and IP addresses, all within close proximity to his hometown, west of Budapest.”

    Mr Lovas has learned to diversify his IP addresses, so they can be literally anywhere in the world, rather than in the vicinity of his home-town. He continues to be drawn to this site, and to our Hungarian language sister paper – Kanadai Magyar Hírlap – and is actively engaged in his favorite pastime, spreading disinformation under a variety of false identities. He can’t fool us. We got his number. 🙂

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