This article is part of the Media Monitoring Highlights of April, 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: First publication on 28 March 2019, followed by a number of articles in April 2019
Media outlets: MTI Hungarian News Agency and Hirado website, which are both part of the public service media.
Headline: “Migrant caravan is being prepared. The destination is Western Europe”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: On 28 March 2019, Hirado and MTI, both part of the public service media funded by the state published an article stating that ’40,000 migrants are about to set off from Turkey and Greece towards Central Europe, to be joined along the way by many more’. As the supposed day of the departure was April 5, the Hungarian national television and the pro-government Vadhajtások website sent a correspondent to Greece to follow the development of the story. By the morning of April 9, Hirado.hu, the news website of the public broadcaster, had published 28 articles and 11 videos about the imminent departure of what they referred to as “caravans”. The publicly funded M1 TV channel also ran the story continuously. They claimed that the departure of the caravans was being organised through social media by two Arabic civil society organisations and that European media wanted to silence the whole story.
Myth Debunked: The source of the initial report by MTI was the Budapest-based Migration Research Institute, jointly run by the Századvég Foundation (close to the ruling Fidesz party) and the publicly funded Mathias Corvinus Collegium. The story first appeared on the website Mandiner, which is run by András Tombor, a founder of the Collegium. From that date onwards, MTI dedicated full coverage to the story of the “caravans”, but its only sources were the Migration Research Institute and M1 TV news. They never referred to any information released in the Greek press or other Western news agencies. It seems that no other media in Europe covered events to the same level as Hungary, where 3-4 stories were broadcast or published every single day. While it seems to be true that there were social media posts encouraging refugees on their way to Europe to meet at a specific place on April 5 to set off, it is not clear who the authors were. While MTI blamed two Arabic NGOs (whose names do not appear on Google results except in the reports by Hungarian state-run media outlets), the Greek Ministry of the Interior claimed those behind it were smugglers. Propaganda media exaggerated the numbers of refugees arriving in Europe: not 40,000, as MTI claimed, but about 600 refugees gathered to wait for the buses promised in the Facebook posts that never appeared. In the run up to the European elections in May, this obsessive and deceitful media coverage shows how state-controlled media in Hungary, which regularly publish stories aligned with the government’s anti-immigration agenda, intensifies in the election period.
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