Although Hungary is part of NATO, before the outbreak of war, social media views were more favorable to Russia and more critical of NATO. There are of course several reasons for this, the appearance of Russian opinions being only one of them.
Of course, the Hungarian government’s policy of opening up to the East and keeping the West at a distance certainly played an important role in this case. HVG wrote an article about the analysis.
TV reports and newspapers about NATO
An analytics firm called Political Capital looked at Hungarian media and social media between September 1, 2021 and January 14, 2022. Analyzing media coverage in detail, they concluded that during this period the Hungarian press, including government-run newspapers, had a largely positive or neutral attitude towards NATO.
Although there are anti-NATO views in the political elite, they mostly come from more radical individuals, so NATO has not even become the subject of day-to-day political disputes.
On the question of Russia, however, there is no consensus between the government and the opposition
However, the ruling party has developed and communicated a positive and friendly image of Russia to voters, which is in stark contrast to opposition views. The opposition has been advocating a move away from Russia for years and is essentially a proponent of Western-oriented integration and federal systems.
In recent years, the Hungarian government has launched several agreements and joint projects with Russia or with Russian companies or entrepreneurs with a high number of contacts.
Respectively, Russian President Putin and Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán seemed to have a much better friendship than Putin had with other European Union countries, meeting regularly and speaking positively about each other’s work.
Russian opinions appear in Hungary
Although, as mentioned at the beginning of our article, the media spread a positive image of NATO, it also happened that information from the Hungarian press agency went viral.
The news agency often seems to be pro-Russian or pro-Kremlin.
Information from Russia could easily spread to the rest of the Hungarian press as they use the news agency as a source of information. In this way, Russian ideas become part of the story. These are mainly attitudes, points of view or subjects to be highlighted.
Social media was also scrutinized, with not-so-surprising results
Most Facebook database comments collected by Political Capital through the SentiOne media monitoring program are anti-NATO. 58% of comments about NATO were critical of the organization’s activities.
Debates are dominated by anti-NATO narratives on the platform, including the comment sections of major Hungarian news portals. In these comments, all the common pro-Kremlin narratives appear: NATO and Washington want war on Russia, or they dismiss as legitimate the Kremlin’s policy towards Ukraine, which they say wants prevent the United States from taking control of Kiev.
This social media activity can play a role in spreading skeptical attitudes about NATO. Not only do simple users and enthusiastic pro-Kremlin activists help spread the stories, but fake profiles also often appear.