"When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science, whatever the matter may be."
Lord Kelvin

The Impact of Russia’s state-run propaganda apparatus on the Hungarian online media – 2010-2017

March 23rd, 2018

In this paper we investigate the impact of Russia’s state-run propaganda apparatus on the Hungarian online media using methods of content analysis. During the analysis we downloaded and put into a database the articles of nine Hungarian online portals from 2010 to 2017 (888.hu, hidfo.ru, index.hu, lokal.hu, magyaridok.hu, mindenegyben.com, mno.hu, origo.hu and pestisracok.hu). We analyse 1 million articles and more than 278 million words in total. We compare the content of pro-governmental news portals (888.hu, lokal.hu, magyaridok.hu and pestisracok.hu) to the articles published by the par excellence Russian propaganda portal, the hidfo.ru using statistical methods. Based on the results of linguistic profiling, the articles of hidfo.ru show Russian language features and they are the translation from a foreign language.

We investigate four issues: (i) the coverage of negative or sensitive issues and events concerning the Russian government or Russian politics; (ii) the usage of word ”migrants ” or ”refugees”; (iii) the interconnections of themes “migrants” and “terror” and (iv) ”migrant” and ”violence”. For testing our hypothesis, we ran logistic regression estimations using different subsamples of articles. Our results support the existence of impact of the Russian’s state-run propaganda apparatus on the Hungarian online media, especially on the pro-governmental online news portals. One unanticipated finding of our research is that the mindenegyben.com, which is a very popular site on Facebook, tends to follow partially the Russian’s state propaganda in its articles concerning Russian’s topics. The analysis of articles published from 2010 to 2017 in index.hu and origo.hu points out that after the origo’s editor in chief was fired for political reasons the language of origo.hu changed and the portal started to use the terms and the language promoted by the Russian’ state propaganda in a somewhat more forceful way. The analysis of articles published from 2015 to 2017 by the nine online portals supports the existence of the impact of the Russian’s state-run propaganda apparatus on the Hungarian pro-governmental online media. The results of the statistical analysis point out that the pro-governmental portals publish articles on negative or sensitive issues concerning Russian government or Russian politics less frequently than the news portals independent from the Hungarian government.

Besides that, the analysis demonstrates that amongst the pro-governmental portals the discourse of 888.hu and the lokal.hu concerning “migrant” and the interconnection of topics of “migrant” and “terrorist” and “migrant” and “violence” do not differ significantly from the discourse used by hidfo.ru. In addition, the other pro-governmental news portals as the pestisracok.hu and the magyaridok.hu are statistically much closer to the hidfo.ru, than the non-governmental portals, the mno.hu, and the index.hu. Thus, while the magyaridok.hu, pestisracok.hu, 888.hu and lokal.hu are indirectly financed by the Hungarian government from advertisements of state-owned enterprises and ministries, they seem to operate similarly such as portals that are members of the Russian’s state-run propaganda apparatus concerning the issues analyzed in our paper.

Paper in English (summary with tables and figures, pdf)

Paper in Hungarian (pdf)

Figures & data (xlsx)

Main data of the analysed articles (zip[dta], zip[csv])

The wordlist of hidfo.ru (xlsx)

List of articles that contains the new words of dehumanization (“migrant-terror”; “migrant-crime”; “migrant-violence”) concerning the refugees in the Hungarian online media (pdf)

List of articles that contains the word “Putin” in mindenegyben.com (pdf)

List of articles that contains the word “migrant” in mindenegyben.com (pdf)

List of articles that contains the word “Putin” or “migrant” in mindenegyben.com, with titles in English (xlsx)