This article is part of the Media Monitoring Highlights of March, a monthly overview of the most significant results of our monitoring of traditional and new media in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, and the United Kingdom.
Date of publication: 16 March 2019
Media Outlet: Hír televízió, television news channel
Description of the xenophobic and anti-Muslim content: The Hungarian television news channel Hír televízió broadcast an interview with Bianka Speidl, an expert from the Migration Research Institute, which is known to have close ties to the Hungarian government. The segment, titled “Invaders”, was opened with the following words: “Millions are waiting in Africa and Asia to get into Europe, while the integration of Islamic people who have lived here for decades has mostly been characterized by failure.” These opening remarks set the tone for the whole interview, in which Speidl discusses immigration, particularly of Muslims, and their alleged failure to integrate into European societies. Speidl claims that “the most problematic area is actually Islamic immigrants with a Muslim background, since Islam is fundamentally different in its structure, world perception and self-determination from all other religions in Europe.”
Speidl and the presenter also discuss birth rates for Muslim immigrants, stating that in a short amount of time there will be a huge rise in the number of Muslim children. Speidl also claims that politicians in the West are aware of this and are encouraging migration in order to “increase consumer demand”.
Myth debunked: This interview showcases clear anti-Muslim narratives often used in Hungary, specifically pushed by think-tanks like the Migration Research Institute, known to distribute research skewed towards the government’s message on topics such as Islam and immigrants. The title alone clearly signposts an anti-Muslim stance; we often see populist movements talking about an ‘invasion’ of Muslim immigrants and specifically talking about birth rates, as Speidl did here. The discussion of political involvement seems to refer to a ‘secret scheme’ involving rich politicians and Muslims, of which native European societies will be the victim. In this sense, the interview at times reads like a conspiracy theory.
Hír televízió is one of the most watched news channels in Hungary and used to be a fair source of news. Recently, it has shifted to the government’s side, broadcasting more and more favorable coverage of the government. This interview is a salient example of this. Immigration, and more specifically the disapproval of it, is a key political policy for Orbán’s current ruling party. It has caused much friction ahead of the European Parliament elections in May. The topic of immigration in Hungary seems to be operated like a switch; when support for the ruling party needs to be strengthened, the topic of immigration becomes more prevalent in the public sphere, with the government supporting media being heavily utilized. Through this interview, Hír televízió is acting as a supporter of this tactic, one that uses fear mongering around the topic of Muslims and immigration. Voices like Speidl’s should not be silenced; however, they must be subjected to scrutiny. If the topic of immigration was discussed by a panel on national television, include Speidl but also other voices from different camps, too. The end result would be a much fairer piece of news.
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