In recent weeks, the Hungarian press has published video footage of several NGO directors, journalists and think tank experts confirming that, despite the Open Society Foundations (OSF) declaring it hqw moved operations out of Hungary, following Prime Minister Orbán and his Fidesz Party’s election victory in 2018, it remains focused and active in the country.
Krisztina Vlastits, a recent team leader for grants management at OSF Services Berlin GmbH, confirms “There are still organizations [in Hungary] that are working with OSF. No matter what it takes.” It is not known how the videos, which appear to be Skype interviews, were obtained.
The videos also raise ethically questionable practices in the relationship between the OSF and some European media outlets, ranging from paying journalists to biased publications against the Hungarian government.
At the center of these reports is Andrej Nosko, a director at Open Society Foundations (OSF) up until 2018, who admits to promoting OSF’s agenda through funding journalists and painting a picture of the current Hungarian government which he admits is deceptive.
Andrej Nosko says “The first thing that is misrepresented is the popularity of the current [Hungarian] Government, and the reason why this government is popular. I think that the part that is misrepresented is that this government, with some tweaks and tricks, enjoys genuine popular support. And what is presented abroad often is that this government does not enjoy popular support, and it’s in power only because of scheming and curtailing freedoms”.
In the video, Andrej Nosko describes in great detail how OSF generates favorable reporting in the media. As an example, he describes hiring Andrew Connoley, a British freelance reporter to review the impact of OSF funded progammes in several EU member States in 2015. The journalist, whose expenses were “almost €10,000” , then pitched the story to several media outlets and was eventually published in Newsweek, without disclosing the funding behind his report. In the same year, Mr. Connoley had published similarly themed stories in FP, Politico.eu and The New Humanitarian.
In another video, Andrej Nosko is highly critical of Freedom House, and alleges its ‘Nations in Transit’ publication is bias. “Instead of the analysis, you essentially have a agitprop, you know? It’s essentially, you are whenever it’s your friends who are in the government, then the country is doing well. If it’s not your friends in the government then whatever they do it’s not good enough.”
In another example of bias reporting, Andrej Nosko says “this is perverse entertainment, sorry to say that, when the media freedom in Hungary was criticised by an MEP from Slovakia [Monika Benova] she has the audacity to criticise media law that was not half as restricted as the media law of her party at home in Slovakia”
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