Propaganda machine

Government aligned media lost 29 press-correction lawsuits last year at the Metropolitan Court of Budapest

According to the court data, a total of 29 press rectification lawsuits were lost by pro-Fidesz media outlets last year. Origo is the record holder with 13 negative verdicts, while Pesti Srácok is in second place with 8 lost cases. Independent newspapers lost only 6 cases in total. Átlátszó lost only one, but this year we won that case in the second instance.

Over the past decade, since Viktor Orbán and his party Fidesz have been leading Hungary, their rule have become synonymous with the construction of an ’illiberal democracy’ in Europe. Central to their strategy has been the process of media capture using the instruments of the state to create a bubble of pro-government media.

The typical method of the media products under the influence of Fidesz has been to write something false about an opposition politician, which is then taken up by the rest of the press empire. As Balázs Orbán, the Prime Minister’s Political Director said last month: „Media is a sovereignty issue. Those who control the media decide who controls ways of thinking and the country.”

Prime Minister’s Political Director on foreign funding of media: it should be transparent – English

After the leading pro-government daily newspaper, Magyar Nemzet wrote that Átlátszó could pose a risk to national security, we wondered what Balázs Orbán, the Prime Minister’s Political Director thought of us. So we asked him at a public event.

Since the beginning of 2018 we have been tracking and publishing the number of lawsuits for correction: in addition to the public service media, Origo, Magyar Nemzet, Pesti Srácok and others, which push government propaganda, we also presented the number of lawsuits for corrections lost by the independent editorial offices. We received the figures from the Metropolitan Court of Budapest, following a freedom of information (FOI) request.

In 2017, pro-government media lost 53 cases, then 109 in 2018, 74 in 2019, 57 in 2020 and 54 in 2021. Between the beginning of 2017 and the end of 2021, 10 pro-government press products were the subject of a total of 700 lawsuits for correction, of which they lost 382 cases: 282 fully, and 100 partially. By contrast, in this period 8 independent newspapers lost only 40 of the 260 cases filed against them: 20 fully and 20 partially.

Pro-government media has lost nearly 400 lawsuits for correction in the past 5 years – English

We have been tracking and publishing the number of lawsuits for correction for years: in 2017, pro-government media lost 53 cases, in 2018 109, in 2019 74 and in 2020 57 and 54 in 2021. We have summarised, and illustrated the last five years of data in charts.

In line with tradition, this year we have again requested data from the Metropolitan Court of Budapest in a FOI request on the press cases that were lost last year. We were curious to know how many press correction actions were filed against Ripost, Lokál, Magyar Nemzet, Pesti Srácok, public service media, Origo, 888, TV2 and HírTV, and how many of these cases were lost by these editorial offices.

According to the court data, in 2021, a total of 29 press rectification lawsuits were lost by pro-government media outlets. A total of 46 cases were filed against them, which means that they failed 63% of the cases for misinformation, a very high percentage. As usual, Origo tops the list with 13 losses (out of 16 lawsuits, i.e. an 81% failure rate), followed by Pesti Srácok with 8 lost cases (out of 12, i.e. 66%).


For comparison, as in previous years, we have also asked for rectification data for non-government press products. According to the data received from the court 444, RTL, Telex,, HVG, Magyar Hang and Átlátszó lost a total of only 6 correction cases. (3 lawsuits) and the print HVG (1 lawsuit) did not lose a single case, and RTL and Magyar Hang (print and online) were not even sued for correction.


Átlátszó was sued once last year, and we lost that case in the first instance – but this year, we won in the second instance. The question was whether we were right to call the former deputy mayor of Érd, a member of the Fidesz party, and the owner of the company that won the public tenders for the construction of the city’s kindergarten a relative on the basis that their siblings were married. The court of first instance took the Civil Code as its starting point, but it only refers to the concept of ’close relative’, which refers to a family relationship based on descent from a common ancestor or by marriage.

In our appeal, we indicated that Hungarian law does not define the term ‘relative’, but in common parlance this word is much broader than the definition in the Civil Code. We also referred to one of the best-known novels of the famous Hungarian writer Zsigmond Móricz, Relatives (in English edition Relations), and the court of appeal ruled in our favour.

Long dead writer helps us win lawsuit against local Fidesz politician who denied his kinship – English

Over the past few years, we have published a series of articles exposing the irregularities in the public tenders for the construction of kindergartens in the city of Érd. One of them is that the owner of the construction company is related to István Bács, the former deputy mayor of Érd: the businessman’s brother married the Fidesz politician’s sister.

Written and translated by Katalin Erdélyi, data visualisation by Krisztián Szabó. The original, Hungarian version of this story can be found here. Photo credit: