Dragomir on Media Capture in Central and Eastern Europe

May 7, 2019

“Media freedom in Central and Eastern Europe is arguably at its lowest level since the region’s dictatorships were toppled in the early 1990s. With local oligarchs buying up outlets and foreign media operators fleeing the region, it is likely to deteriorate further”, writes Marius Dragomir, Director of the Center for Media, Data and Society at CEU in his latest article for Project Syndicate.

Hungary has plummeted 31 places in Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index since 2013, the country ranks 87th in 2019, below Sierra Leone, Kyrgyzstan, and El Salvador. With more than three-quarters of Hungary’s news media controlled by pro-Fidesz oligarchs, “there is little reason to expect a change for the better”, Dragomir argues.

This is just the beginning, he continues, as similar media-capture models and practices are now proliferating across Central and Eastern Europe with two trends standing out:

  • Imitation: governments across the region learning from their neighbors, especially from Hungary;
  • Cross-border expansion of oligarchic structures, led by Orbán’s loyalists.

“Hungary’s government soon will not need to ask a foreign government to stifle media criticism. Orbán will just have his cronies handle it”, Dragomir concludes.