The Hungarian Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, closed after the Cold War ended, relaunched on September 8 in response to the country’s steep decline in media freedom.
“We are very excited to return to Hungary with state-of-the art programming and RFE/RL’s signature commitment to serving the public interest by reporting the issues that our audiences say matter most,” said RFE/RL acting President Daisy Sindelar.
“We have an outstanding team of local journalists, and they are determined to be the go-to source for reliable, unbiased news,” she added.
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The service is led by Gyula Csak, formerly a journalist and editor with the pan-European network Euronews and a producer and Hungary correspondent for the BBC. Csak has also worked as a senior news executive for numerous Hungarian media outlets.
RFE/RL announced its plans for a Hungarian Service in autumn 2019 in response to the dramatic constriction of the country’s media landscape -- reflected in a 16-point plunge, to 89th place, in Reporters Without Borders’ 2020 World Press Freedom Index.
Over the past 10 years, the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban has taken control of most of the country’s press outlets either directly or indirectly.
Public television and radio stations and the state news agency came under government control in 2011.
In 2019, about 500 private media outlets were concentrated into the Central European Press and Media Foundation (KESMA), which has close ties to the Orban government.
RFE/RL’s original Hungarian Service, known as Szabad Europa Radio, operated from Munich during the Cold War and closed in 1993.
RFE/RL’s return to Hungary marks its third reentry in an EU member state. In 2019, it opened new bureaus in Bulgaria and Romania -- countries, like Hungary, where the broadcaster played a critical local role during the Cold War.