Today the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) expressed its surprise and concern over a journalism prize awarded to a far-right journalist in Hungary.
“It is a sinister farce to award a journalism prize to somebody who is so blatantly disregarding journalistic ethics” said EFJ President Arne König. “It obviously does not reward outstanding journalism but in fact is being given to those who tell the stories the government wants to hear”.
Every year the Hungarian government awards the Táncsis-Prize to journalists and media workers. This year, one of this top journalism prize was granted to Ferenc Szaniszló, a far-right journalist working for pro-government Echo TV. Szaniszló is also known to have regularly made anti-Roma and anti-Semitic comments, having called for example Roma “human-like figures” on air and having been fined in 2011 already for hate speech.
Upon hearing Szaniszó’s commendation, laureates of earlier years returned their prizes in protest. Following the prize ceremony, Hungarian Minister Zoltán Balog, the government’s official presenter of the Táncsis-Prize, claimed that he himself had not been aware of the opinions Szaniszló had voiced earlier.
“Despite the reassuring speeches of Hungarian officials, this latest development shows that the government of Hungary pursues an ideological agenda in each of their decisions dealing with media. This time the award given to an agitator is simply another evidence of the political interference in journalistic work”, said König.
The EFJ affiliate, the Association of Hungarian Journalists MUOSZ traditionally always had its delegate in the professional jury making propositions for the Táncsics-prize. In a statement MUOSZ said that “this year, for the first time ever, the largest Hungarian journalist's organization was excluded from this process, and was given the chance only to nominate one colleague. Although we considered it very carefully, according to pure professional criteria, our nominee was not accepted and his refusal was not commented or explained by those officials who made the final decision”.
On 20 March, Ferenc Szaniszló returned his Táncsics-Prize. Minister Zoltán Balog, under international pressure over the government's choice, had called upon Szaniszló to give back his award and so he did. Prior to this, the jury deciding on the prizes had made a public statement saying that they did in fact not promote Szaniszló.
For more information, please contact EFJ on + 32 2 235 22 15
The European Federation of Journalists is the European group of the International Federation of Journalists. It represents over 300,000 journalists in 37 countries.