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Viktor Orbán: Hungarian PM cited by Reporters Without Borders over press freedom

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By Euronews with AP
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives for an EU summit in Brussels last month.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives for an EU summit in Brussels last month.   -   Copyright  Aris Oikonomou, Pool Photo via AP
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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has been placed on a list of "predators" by press watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

The report said that Orbán had cracked down "massively" on press freedom in Hungary using "varied predatory techniques".

"[He] has steadily and effectively undermined media pluralism and independence since being returned to power in 2010," RSF stated.

It is the first time that a European Union leader has been placed on the France-based organisation's list.

"The methods may be subtle or brazen, but they are always efficient," the report said, citing that Orbán's ruling Fidesz party control over 80% of the media via purchases by allied oligarchs.

Private media in Hungary are discriminated against in access to information and government advertising and denigrated as purveyors of "fake news," the report added.

Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs has slammed the report and said RSF should be called "Fake News Without Borders".

Tamas Deutsch, an MEP and founding member of Fidesz, wrote on Facebook that the report was part of "the latest wave of attacks against Hungary".

Who else was listed in the RSF report?

The full RSF list published on Monday included 37 heads of state or government, including the prime minister of Bangladesh and Hong Kong’s administrative chief.

Others cited for curbing media freedoms included Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who wields day-to-day power in the kingdom.

"His repressive methods include spying and threats that have sometimes led to abduction, torture, and other unthinkable acts," RSF said.

"Jamal Khashoggi’s horrific murder exposed a predatory method that is simply barbaric."

Khashoggi was a dissident Saudi journalist who was killed while visiting the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

Carrie Lam, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region since 2017, was also listed by the press watchdog.

"[She] has proved to be the puppet of Chinese President Xi Jinping, and now openly supports his predatory policies towards the media,” the report said.

RSF noted the recent closing of Hong Kong’s leading independent newspaper, Apple Daily, and the jailing of its founder, Jimmy Lai.

The watchdog’s chief has urged world governments to disavow the practices used by the leaders it singled out and to recognise the positive contributions made by an independent press.

"We must not let their methods become the new normal," said RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire.