- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 8, 2020

The American-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty network is reopening broadcasting operations in Hungary for the first time in nearly 30 years — a move officials say is necessary to counter “disinformation” sullying the Eastern European nation’s media landscape.

Hungarian audiences awoke Tuesday to “Szabad Európa,” a 21st-century update of the network’s Cold War-era “Hungarian Service,” with new digital platforms aiming to provide “objective, fact-based reporting in a country that has witnessed a decline in diverse media voices,” the network known as RFE/RLE said in a press release.

The release noted RFE/RL had exited Hungary in 1993, but announced plans to return in 2019, as “declining media pluralism and disinformation degraded the information landscape.” That year, it said, a report by the global monitor Freedom House “described Hungary’s ‘great success in snuffing out critical journalism’ and Reporters Without Borders ranked Hungary 87th among 180 countries surveyed.

The release did not blame any specific actors or nations for spreading disinformation in Hungary, although analysts often blame Russia for seeking to undermine free media landscapes in Eastern Europe toward the goal of fomenting anti-U.S. and anti-European Union sentiment.

The RFE/RL network is an editorially independent media company funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Agency for Global Media. Its return to Hungary marks the network’s third entry into an EU member state. In 2019 it relaunched work in Bulgaria and Romania — where, like Hungary, it played a critical role during the Cold War, reaching well over 50 percent of adult audiences in the 1980s with uncensored radio news.

“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 on the issues that matter most to our audiences,” said Daisy Sindelar, the network’s acting president. “We have an outstanding team of local journalists determined to be the go-to source for reliable, unbiased news.”

• Guy Taylor can be reached at gtaylor@washingtontimes.com.

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