Anti-migrant and anti-Muslim discourse is dominating propaganda media in Hungary. As Get the Trolls Out (GTTO) media monitoring results have shown, government-led and government-financed media regularly spread Islamophobic messages, peaking around elections time. Voices from different religious communities are rarely heard in the mainstream media, and when they are represented, they are framed through the lens of the right-wing government.
Acting within this context, GTTO partner CIJ organised a roundtable on reporting religion in Hungary. The roundtable, held in Budapest on 6 May 2019, was moderated by journalist Dóra Ónody Molnár and saw the participation of Marcell Lőrincz, researcher and GTTO media monitor, and three editors in chief of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish media outlets: János Káldos of naiiszlam.hu, evangelical theologist Dóra Laborczi of evangelikus.hu, and Seres László of neokhon.hu.
“With this roundtable, we wanted to give voice to these religions through their media leaders,” said Bea Bodrogi, CIJ media expert. Bodrogi stressed the importance of having representatives of religious media outlets because they are able to lead the public discourse on the subject, highlighting issues that are important to different religious communities.
All the panellists emphasised that ethical reporting of religion is of crucial importance, particularly in the present political climate religious matters are heavily politicised and authentic voices are rarely heard.
The roundtable succeeded in fostering connections between different editors. It also initiated discussions about how to utilise the prominence and privilege of some Christian public figures for the benefit of more marginalised groups. Dóra Laborczi, evangelic priest and journalist, said that her position would allow her to “open more doors”, with the government and other stakeholders, for those other religious communities that are regularly neglected or attacked.
Hungary is heavily divided along political lines that siding with those who are considered “enemies” of the government could be dangerous or disadvantageous. However, when relevant figures such as Laborczi intervene in the debate, opportunities and alliances are created which counter discriminatory narratives.
After this event, CIJ plans to keep working to promote different religious voices in the Hungarian media landscape. The Budapest-based organisation will produce podcasts and opinion pieces where journalists covering religion will share their points of view.