There is a specter that lurks in Europe and that is the attack on freedom of information. Certainly not a new problem, but one that has become increasingly evident in recent times since some countries, inside and outside the EU, are using the mass media as a means of propaganda of power, reducing, if not even eliminating, the spaces for the opposition and therefore for dialogue.
On the right, as on the left, the use of the media as propaganda has always been a must. Not surprisingly, it was two dictators, Francisco Franco in Spain and Antonio De Oliveira Salazar in Portugal who introduced radio and television in their respective countries, immediately sensing their functional potential for the control of power and the spread of the nationalist and sovereign message.
In the USSR, television and the press agency were direct emanations of the Communist Party and even in the former Yugoslavia the control of the media was functional to fuel the ethnic hatred that was at the base of the conflict in the Balkans.
Thirty years later, the scenario seems to repeat itself in those countries that are currently experiencing a period of strong contrast with the European Union.
Above all there is obviously Hungary, where freedom of information is formally guaranteed but where in reality it is very difficult to do one’s job for those who do not think like Prime Minister Orban. Public TV and radio are so controlled by the government that electoral debates are not held there: a situation that obviously benefits Fidesz and makes it very difficult for the opposition to make its voice heard.
Also because in reality Orban also controls a large part of private broadcasting, exactly 90% according to Reporters Without Borders. The two main opposition newspapers have been closed and the rest of the press is controlled through the practice of having oligarchs close to Orbàn and his party acquire unwelcome publications and feed them into the Central Press and Media Europe Foundation, which brings together about 500 different media and has as its sole purpose that of propaganda to the Government.
There are currently 20 publications detected by personalities close to Orbàn. The latest is Index.hu, silenced after the purchase of the advertising sector by the entrepreneur Miklos Vaszily, who as a first measure requested the change of the political line from opposition to pro-government, but received the refusal from the director Szabolcz Dull, later fired and the resignation of the editorial board. Today Dull and his 70 journalists founded Telex.hu and continue to oppose thanks to a Slovak publisher.
The media control operation implemented in Poland is, on the other hand, more subtle. Prime Minister Morawiecki has in fact launched a “media repolonization” campaign, cutting funds from opposition newspapers and diverting them to ‘friendly’ newspapers, even of the lowest quality.
If the more solid newspapers, such as the historian Gazeta Wyborcza, managed to compensate for this decline in advertising revenues, by introducing a paywall mechanism, many of the smaller circulation newspapers were forced to close their doors.
Outside the EU, the phenomenon of Zdanovism, that is the strong control of all intellectual activities by the government, is very strong in Belarus.
Public TV, BTRC, was recently suspended for three years by the EBU (the European radio and television body) for repeated violations of freedom of information and thought and violent repression, even with the prison of dissent after the disputed Lukasenko re-election as President of the Republic.
Most of the opposition newspapers have been closed and hundreds of journalists have been arrested, because the censorship is radical and any freedom of the media is automatically classified as a political and social threat.
The last to end up in the cell was Roman Protasevich, director of the dissident channel Telegram Nexta, arrested in Minsk after the plane on which he was traveling was specifically hijacked. Today independent voices in Belarus are few and without means, but they continue to document the truth in a country that has almost completely banned entry visas to Western journalists.
In Russia, the arrest of the dissident blogger Alexeij Navalny has rekindled the headlights on a state censorship that over the years had led to several arrests, the most famous of all that of Anna Politkovskaya, murdered in 2006 after the violent criticism of Putin’s policies in particular on the violation of civil and human rights, as well as for his reports on the war in Chechnya.
The West’s response was the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Dimitry Muratov, editor of Novaya Gazeta, one of the leading opposition newspapers. The Kremlin ‘complimented Muratov: “Who has always worked according to his ideals, has dedicated himself to them, has talent and courage”, it said, while Muratov dedicated the award to Politkovskaya and Gazeta journalists who died for the freedom of word. But it is to be believed that he will not have been very happy.
To be continued/1
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