Hungarians close to far-right leader Orban launch international news agency with 'conservative, right-wing perspective'

Headlines resonate with populism of anti-immigration prime minister

Samuel Osborne
Tuesday 09 April 2019 16:19
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Hungarian PM Viktor Orban says he has great hopes for European 'axis' as he seeks anti-immigration majority across Europe

An international news agency has been founded in London by a small group of Hungarian business leaders and politicians with close ties to prime minister Viktor Orban.

Most of the site’s content is behind a paywall, but headlines on its front page have clear overtones of the populism of Mr Orban, who is one of the fiercest critics of immigration to Europe.

“Migrant kills wife after she converts to Christianity,” one headline from Monday reads. A report about Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy’s League, anti-immigrant interior minister and ally of Mr Orban, was headlined “Salvini: Citizens should control Europe”.

“Hungarian minister on EP elections: Hungarian votes also matter” and “Immigration is a war of cultures and civilisations” were headlines that borrowed directly from Mr Orban’s rhetoric.

The agency’s Twitter account has posted three tweets so far: two about Brexit and one quoting Mr Orban saying: “Christian culture is the source of all power.”

The company, called V4NA, was registered in London by Hungary’s ambassador to the UK, Kristof Szalay-Bobrovniczky, on 31 December, 2018, according to company filings.

The agency publishes in both English and Hungarian and its name reflects a focus on the Visegrad Four countries: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

“We give a conservative, right-wing perspective of the key political, economical and other news that are critical to our life in Europe and around the world,” the agency said on its site.

“V4NA Ltd. is registered and headquartered in London (UK). Our team of fifty journalists and fast-responding news teams, however, are always on location where the leading stories happen in Europe. Should it be London, Brussels, Paris, Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Belgrade, Bratislava, Warsaw or any other focal point in Europe, we are there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

The site’s paywall requires users to send an email with their email address and billing information.

Associates of the Hungarian prime minister have gained control of a large chunk of the country's media in recent years and his Fidesz party has taken total control of state media.

However, Mr Orban has so far been unable to control international news coverage, which has been far more critical of him.

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Last month, Arpad Habony, Mr Orban’s main spin doctor, acquired a 40 per cent stake in V4NA via his London political advisory firm, Danube Business Consulting Ltd.

Subsequently, New Wave Media Group, owned by KESMA, a foundation that controls most of Hungary’s pro-government media, acquired a 57 per cent stake from Szalay-Bobrovniczky.

Despite its huge role in the Hungarian media market, KESMA was exempted from regulatory scrutiny last year on the grounds it was a strategic national asset.

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