This Working Paper analyses the main narratives on migration developed in traditional and social media around two case studies in Hungary. The first one follows the media coverage of an incident that lasted only for a few seconds: a Hungarian camerawoman tripped over refugees, including children, as they were running away from the police near the Serbian border in the wake of the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ of 2015. The second case is the national consultation on immigration and terrorism, a push-poll employed by the Hungarian government in 2015 in order to legitimise its policies.
The two cases present completely different dynamics: the first one was a spontaneous incident that did not fit the government’s pre-existing narrative on migration, minimising coverage by pro-government media in the first phase of the story and opening up space for independent and anti-government actors to create the dominant narrative on the event. The national consultation on migration and terrorism, on the other hand, was initiated by the government in order to create and manipulate public opinion as part of its moral panic button propaganda technology. Consequently, pro-government actors were in a hegemonic position when it came to creating the narrative and interpretations of the event.
There is, however, a common feature to both cases: the lack of any discussion, let alone debate, we otherwise identify with the media’s role as a democratic institution. In Hungary’s polarised and politicised media environment, the common characteristic of the narratives present in these stories is that they can be easily identified by who propagates them: whether pro-government or non-government actors. The debate is often reduced to binaries that limits arguments and narratives to ‘are you for or against’ migration/the Hungarian government/Hungarians.