Journalists from Hungary and Slovakia have voiced concern about the level of antisemitism in the media of their respective states.
Speaking after a seminar organised by the London Jewish Cultural Centre, Michael Szatmary, a reporter with the most popular private station in Slovakia, TV Markiza, said that the country’s state-run television channel gives weekly space to a right-wing conspiracy theorist who believes that 9/11 was a Jewish-American plot.
Mr Szatmary said: “There is a worrying lack of professionalism in much of the media. When you have a regular commentator on state television who describes 9/11 as ‘an inside job’ by the United States, you have to be concerned.”
Tamas Foti, a veteran correspondent with a Hungarian agency, MTI, pointed to a studio confrontation between a television presenter and the leader of the far-right Jobbik party, Gabor Vona.
“When asked about Jobbik’s antisemitic slogans, Vona told the interviewer that if he thought it such an important issue, he should emigrate to Israel. Some parts of the media, especially those papers affiliated to Fidesz, constantly carry negative stories about treatment of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia to stir up animosity. It’s not a healthy situation.”
Michael Szatmary said the media uses coded language to disseminate prejudice and hatred: “Everyone knows that talk of ‘those people who don’t work and survive on state benefits’ is a reference to the Roma. And protests against the Roma by the ‘good people of Slovakia’ means neo-Nazi skinheads.”
The LJCC seminar brought a group of eight journalists from Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic to London to debate issues of media freedom with journalists and academics from the UK. As one said: “Many journalists in Slovakia are afraid to write about the far-right because they fear they might be physically attacked. This has given us the space to say what we really think.”