The Hungarian watchdog group Foundation for Transparent Journalism (Transzparens Újságírásért Alapítvány) put out a press release on Monday, 16 January, sharing the results of an analysis of the background of left-wing online publication Nyugati Fény.
According to the foundation’s findings, there is evidence that the news website Nyugati Fény (which, ironically, translates as ‘Western Light’) is being funded by a foreign left-wing entity. The European Parliament’s political group Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats has run political advertisements on the portal. These ads appeared in the political ads section of Nyugati Fény’s website.
What’s noteworthy about this is that the left-wing group bought ad space specifically on the Hungarian political site—these ads were not placed there as part of an overall Google AdSense campaign. This is a highly unusual media buy strategy for multiple reasons, as the Foundation for Transparent Journalism points out.
First of all, Nyugati Fény’s traffic is relatively low, therefore it makes little sense to specifically target such a small audience. Second, it is not campaign season. The next European Parliamentary elections are not taking place until sometime around May of 2024, over a year from now. And third, even if it was campaign season, candidates in Hungary would not run under the Progressive Alliance’s brand, so paying to push that brand’s recognition still would not make much sense.
The site is known to be closely linked to the largest Hungarian opposition party, the Democratic Coalition, which is a member of the Progressive Alliance party family in the EP. The group happens to be the one several MEPs of which, such as Greek Socialist MEP Eva Kaili, have recently been implicated in a major corruption scandal.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Nyugati Fény’s founder and chief editor Viktor Mandula announced his resignation earlier this month. The exposé also shed light on the strange fact that the site’s publisher, as denoted in their impressum, is a company called Western Light s.r.o., registered in Slovakia—despite their main profile being coverage of Hungarian politics.
Nyugati Fény is not the only critical-of-the-government media outlet that is being financed from abroad. Telex has recently announced that it is launching a journalism Academy—with a 740,000 USD grant from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour of the US State Department.
This is all happening in the midst of a larger scandal. It has recently been revealed that the Hungarian opposition parties received large sums of money from the United States through an NGO during the 2022 parliamentary election campaigns.