When Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán gave a speech to American conservatives at a 2022 CPAC conference about his secret to staying in power, his advice was simple. He told his audience that the key is to "have your own media."

He was being a bit modest. Many politicians all over the world have media outlets that are friendly with them. But what Orbán has in Hungary is an entire pro-government information ecosystem that includes hundreds of print and digital outlets, television channels, radio stations, and social media influencers. They don't even try to maintain the pretense of doing journalism. They openly serve the government's interests by promoting its messages and even using the government's language. It is certainly one of the most robust and sophisticated propaganda machineries the world has seen in the modern age of media.

As the editor of Direkt36, a Hungarian investigative reporting center, Andras Petho has been closely following the construction of this ecosystem. He saw how the changes in the regulatory framework and the distribution of state advertisements were used for this purpose and witnessed the closure or takeover of several previously independent news outlets. He personally lived through this when one of the biggest digital newsrooms, Origo, came under intense pressure from the government (which prompted his resignation and led him to co-found Direkt36) and he also did a lot of reporting on the crackdown on other outlets (including that on Index, another popular news site).

Organised in association with Direkt36.