Workings of international machinery seeking to discredit Hungary now exposed

A French blog has published shocking details about the inner workings of the international press. The article exposes, among other things, how an international non-profit association can influence the running of media outlets, their advertising strategies and the wording of newspaper articles on topical issues. The writing also reveals how, during private conversations, the organisation's chief also admitted that his association had been putting pressure on Hungary via the European Union and the European Parliament.

English NAGYVILÁG POLITIKA 2022. FEBRUÁR 18. 12:06

In the article, the president and chief executive of an international non-profit organisation, WAN-IFRA (World Association of News Reporters), reveals how his organisation took part in a smear campaign against Hungary, the Hungarian daily Magyar Nemzet reports, highlighting the main findings of the post at the beginning of its article:

– WAN-IFRA is partly funded by George Soros’s Open Society Foundations

– Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, WAN-IFRA achieved a record annual sales revenue of 9 million euros

– WAN-IFRA is able to influence the management of media outlets, their advertising strategies and the wording of their articles covering current affairs

– WAN-IFRA circulates regular reports on newsworthy topics, and also organises individual information sessions attended by select groups of media workers.

– In addition to thousands of press outlets, the system connects media outlets such as The Financial Times, The Economist, The New York Times, Le Monde, Die Welt, El País, Il Corriere Della Sera, and La Repubblica

– WAN-IFRA’s surveys on Hungary tend to land on the desks of journalists who are not or just barely familiar with Hungary and seek to influence both the public and the politicians against Budapest with their pieces based on WAN-IFRA’s materials

– WAN-IFRA’s chief acknowledged that the organisation had sought to pressurize Hungary via the European Union and the European Parliament.

On 3 April, millions of people will cast their ballots in Hungary, a country typically branded as totalitarian by many media outlets, writes the author of the blog, pointing out that Europe’s and the West’s most prestigious press outlets regularly state that the person of the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban – even though democratically elected to lead his country – is a threat to democracy.

It’s an opinion which is repeated inteminably by the aforementioned media outlets, in full agreement and unity, he highlighted.

In the author’s view, this type of prestine harmony and common message could perhaps be best explained by the system which links connects media outlets such as The Financial Times, The Economist, The New York Times, Le Monde, Die Welt, El País, Il Corriere Della Sera and La Repubblica as well as thousands of others, and which was created by an unknown organisation that has registered headquarters both in Paris and Frankfurt.

Following this, the author provided a detailed introduction of WAN-IFRA, the World Association of News Reports in detail, saying that

WAN-IFRA works “to protect the journalists and publishers of the world, and to operate independent media,” extending its goals and activities to its own members, i.e. journalists and publishers.

The world’s press outlets mostly operate in corporate organisations such as publishers, while WAN-IFRA connects the world’s information industry together via its own members. At the same time, it provides services and expert assistance, mostly of a business nature, for its members. Protecting its members and the media, and helping them in their business growth, this is WAN-IFRA’s publicly declared mission.

However, the organisation also disseminates information, views and opinions in its system, thanks to its favourable position which enables it to have direct access to media organisations and their editorial boards.

Having direct access to the editorial teams of the world’s leading newspapers explains the source of WAN-IFRA’s power, with which they are able to manipulate anything they want, from the management of media outlets through the advertising strategies and the wording of newspaper articles on topical issues, all the way to how to handle problems and to even what to regard as a problem at all, the author writes. He then introduces the organisation’s top executive.

WAN-IFRA is headed by Chief Executive Vincent Peyregne who, during his a professional career spanning three decades, has worked for such notable media players as the Sud-Oest Group, Libération, La Tribune or the Swiss Edipresse. In 1997, Mr Peyregne joined IFRA (the predecessor of WAN-IFRA) and launched the organisation’s French and Spanish subsidiaries. Before taking over the management of WAN-IFRA in 2012, he joined the Sarkozy government in 2008 as chief advisor to the ministry of culture and communications.

Under Mr Peyregne’s leadership, prior to the coronavirus pandemic, WAN-IFRA generated a record annual sales revenue of 9 million euros. However, WAN-IFRA’s funding practices and tools are in sharp contrast to its declared intention and goal of promoting independent media. WAN-IFRA admits that it regularly sends reports about newsworthy topics and events to its members and organises so-called information sessions attended by only a select group of media workers.

However, WAN-IFRA is making a strenuous effort to conceal the fact that the information so disseminated within its network “can be financed” by advocacy groups and lobbyists active in a variety of fields. In the case of Hungary, these are articles that often originate from privately-owned foundations, such as the Open Society Foundations (OSF) funded by well-known American businessman George Soros, who is highly active in politics.

WAN-IFRA’s projects launched against Hungary, insinuating that there is a type of “soft censorship” in the country, were sponsored by the OSF. This is how reports and lobbying pieces – featuring contents dictated by OSF – could find their way to newspapers and publications open to this kind of manipulation.

The blog’s author highlights that Hungarian-born George Soros, who is known to be a long-standing nemesis of the Orban government, has a direct and vested interest in manipulating the information that is published about Hungary.

According to the author, we must therefore ask a very important question: could news materials and opinions financed by Soros at WAN-IFRA have induced the publication of reports in the international press that cast a negative light on Hungary? Did the tsunami-like campaigns of European media outlets critical of Budapest convey actual opinions of their own, or did they perhaps go too far and become extreme due to reports funded by OSF?

Most undeniebly, WAN-IFRA did not reveal the fact that they are the link between the research funded by OSF and the published media reports. Naturally, this means that there is nothing to stop private interests from using the international press with maximum discretion to shape public opinion according to their own interests, and to urge Brussels to take action against Hungary.

Putting an end to conjectures and secrecy, Mr Peyregne spoke openly during the private conversations, something of course he would never do publicly, about how exactly his organisation works, making reference to funds provided by OSF for WAN-IFRA specifically with a view to stirring up tensions against the Orban government and exerting pressure, reads the article.

When Mr Peyregne was asked whether it would be possible to exert pressure on Hungary via the European Union and the European Parliament, he said “But of course, it happened before,” the article says.

To be more precise, WAN-IFRA’s CEO explained that

“In actual fact, we’re part of those organisations. There are foundations, such as George Soros’s Open Society Foundations and a number of other organisations that are extremely active in Hungary. So yes, that, too, is part of our job. We, the WAN-IFRA Association, are financed by these foundations. They’re mostly global and international agencies or foundations.”

When WAN-IFRA seeks funding for its operations and projects, it exchanges the organisation’s mission – “the protection of independent media” – for crisp banknotes by accepting paid orders from interested groups for the influencing and manipulation of media.

When Mr Peyregne was asked whether WAN-IFRA could be contracted for research related to Hungary, he said, “Yes, either WAN-IFRA or another organisation. If the job involved conveys some value for us, then yes, we can talk about it. You know, the research materials will later be circulated among the largest media outlets.”

The article says that readers of the world’s largest newspapers may have got used to Hungary being regularly in the focus of attention, or even in the crosshairs of journalists. This is not a mere coincidence. According to Mr Peyregne, this particular attention on the part of media workers is owing to “the data, information and reports that we write, in particular, about the manipulation of the press in Hungary. Hungary is a typical example of a country which, rather than resorting to direct censorship, applies soft censorship.”

Surveys made by WAN-IFRA of Hungary land on the desks of journalists who are not or are barely familiar with Hungary, and who seek to influence members of the public and politicians against Budapest with articles made on the basis of WAN-IFRA’s materials. They agitate against a country where media (including the members of WAN-IFRA) are free to criticise the government.

Mr Peyregne also admits that “Many of our materials have already been published in Hungary.” As regards soft censorship, he said

“We have published a number of reports on the issue, a whole series of reports in fact, which helps public opinion as well as influencers. And that is exactly our strategy: to find local supporters in a given (European) country in order to eventually win over the whole public opinion for our cause. This is one of the most important tasks and parts of lobbying. You have to organise a campaign with a specific goal, and you have to see it through.”

While the campaign has not succeeded in toppling Hungarian Prime Minister Orban, it is nonetheless interesting to find out why mainstream media outlets appear to represent the same exact political position, or why they keep repeating the same narrative ceaselessly. Now we know, and it’s enough to just take a look at who WAN-IFRA is financed by, the author writes in conclusion.



george soros, Hungary, mainstream media, media attack, osf, v4, viktor orban