Media are the ultimate frontiers in defending freedom in society today

Miklós Haraszti’s keynote speech at the Budapest award ceremony of the European Press Prize, March 14, 2018.

Council of Europe's GRECO has published a report on Slovakia, suggesting the steps how to improve the country's fight against corruption. Council of Europe's GRECO has published a report on Slovakia, suggesting the steps how to improve the country's fight against corruption. (Source: SITA)

The author is a Hungarian journalist, human rights activist, diplomat, and writer.

Dear friends of freedom of the press, many of you are coming from countries where the otherwise democratic, pluralistic media is burdened by novel dangers, such as manipulative fake news, the fragmentation of the public through social media, the monopolistic harnessing of advertisement revenues by the big-data companies, and, as a result, a further weakening of the legacy media.

Now, your speaker tonight is envying you -- and at the same time he is praising your wisdom to have come with your award ceremony to one of the countries of Europe already taken over by a higher stage of despoilment.

Your precious prizes honoring quality journalism are truly meaningful in a country which is, by now, beyond the mere spreading of politically motivated fake news. Instead, we have a dominating fake media, sustained by the government from taxpayer money. In short, welcome to the new propaganda state inside Europe, donning a quasi-democratic and quasi-market-economy camouflage.

From fake news to propaganda states

Here you find an audience which can fully appreciate the dangers that the established democracies face when outside forces pump fake news into the public space.

We share your indignation hearing about the most impertinent of all fake news, which is when populist politicians cry fake news, slandering the work of responsible journalists. The honest media has become an enemy because it is NOT fake.

But what you will experience in this country is not anymore manipulations of social media, utilizing commercial algorithms of the big-data companies to distribute their garbage.

The illiberal propaganda state has become a troll factory itself. Its main objective is not simply the spreading of “alternative facts” – the aim is to squeeze out all alternatives to fake news.

As you can guess, this cannot be achieved within the media production cycle alone. To achieve this, you need fake democracy, fake market, and fake constitutionalism.

I recommend to study the propaganda state as inherent in the warning signs you already experience at home.

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