eDemocracy Workshop Society
Hungarian Roma Parliament
Szolnok Fejlodeseert Egyesulet
Civil Összefogás Tótkomlós Ifjúságáért
Independent online newspapers outside Budapest: Nyugat.hu, Szabadpecs.hu, Borsod24.com, Castellum.do, Civilhetes.net, Kapost.hu, Sugopart.hu, Szegedicsipos.hu, Szeretgom.hu, Veszpremkukac.hu
Hungary has become the first EU member state to leave the club of democracies. Control over the media is one of the main pillars of this semi-authoritarian regime. People living in rural areas have been systematically isolated from fact-based information, and thus susceptible for propaganda. In order to combat misinformation campaigns, we founded Print-It-Yourself three years ago. Our mission is to deliver evidence-based news and build communities for the small town Roma and non-Roma population.
Hungary, rural settlements, towns with a population between 1000 to 5000
With recent purchases of regional newspapers, nearly 90 percent of all media outlets in Hungary are controlled by Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his oligarchs. People in rural areas have been systematically isolated from fact-based information. The majority of Hungarian Roma also live in these regions, where the democratic deficit is deepened even more by the lack of the free press. Even if using the internet, residents here do not read or watch political content online. Strong fear and political inactivity characterizes these places, where civil society is virtually nonexistent. Publishing an independent weekly covering local as well as national issues, and involving local residents into the distribution will therefore strengthen local democracy, press freedom and active citizenship.
Distributing our weekly requires a large number of volunteers and their concerted effort. Issues edited by the central staff must be printed in thousands of copies and delivered to every single letter box in small settlements. In a village of 1000 residents, this can be done by two people. But in a town of 5000, it needs at least ten. Working together, members of such distribution groups not only get formed into small communities but also gain experience in stepping up for the freedom of press and democracy. Before the last elections in 2018, we managed to circulate more than a million Nyomtassteis copies across the country. Our story was picked up by the international media, including the New York Times, the Guardian, and Die Tageszeitung. In 2020, we received a SozialMarie main prize.
Our target audience is those living in small towns and villages, isolated from fact-based information. We will distribute the weekly newspaper in at least 100 settlements (with populations between 1000 to 5000). Among other marginalized groups, one of our target audience includes the Roma community, typically living in segregated neighborhoods. We will reach at least five settlements with a significant number of Roma inhabitants on a regular basis. Special issues here would not only contain political content but also information of special interest to them. Due to their particular socioeconomic status (lower level of income, education and participation in political activities), these newspapers are aimed at “opinion leaders” who could elevate these topics of discussion.
Besides our core team in Budapest, which includes nearly 50 activists, volunteers printing and circulating the newspaper consist of a much larger group – hundreds of people across the country. Our goal is to turn this loose network of individuals into a civic movement that carries out weekly distribution in at least 100 Hungarian villages. Complemented by a media campaign, people will realize that in order for change to happen, they need to contribute with their volunteer work or financial support. Our partners in these efforts include a number of independent newspapers and journalists based outside the capital. But our cooperation should be strengthened, especially with the Roma community. In preparation for this application, Roma CSOs and intellectuals have already offered their support
Our goals are clear and quantifiable: to circulate copies of Print-It-Yourself in at least 100 small towns and villages, reaching 250,000 citizens across Hungary. Shifts in attitudes will start in these circles which are flooded by state-controlled fake news on a daily basis. According to a survey by the Median Institute, as early as in six weeks, 8-10 percent of people changed their opinion on certain issues reading our paper. These results can prove to the entire society that it is indeed possible to combat pro-government propaganda outlets. Moreover, communities established around the distribution will provide an experience of active citizenship at the local level. We are confident that we will be able to initiate change in these 100 settlements, including 5 Romani communities.
Our initiative conveys the basic values of European democracy to small settlements, making civil liberties tangible, which can eventually pave the way to empowerment. Such small circles of press freedom promote the gradual development of the plurality of local opinions and diversity becoming the norm. The implementation of our project also means a type of civic education and learning process. Free articulation of opinions can underpin the requirement that civic decisions, such as participation in elections, are possible only if equal opportunities in access to information are guaranteed. Establishing the Print-It-Yourself network of activists and distributors within and between small settlements contributes to real civic alliances.
It is not a coincidence that the core of our team includes several journalist and social scientists. They understand that the crackdown on the media made it possible to build a semi-authoritarian regime in Hungary. Despite the best efforts of the remaining independent outlets, information does not reach enough people. It is therefore crucial for the few fact-based newspapers to inform as many people as possible, and provide a feeling of success for those who became weary of the political situation in the last ten years. Our movement offers a great opportunity for thousands of people across the country to engage in civic activities. However, it is also important for us to initiate conversations even in the smallest villages, hoping to enhance critical thinking about key social issues.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Copywriting and editing (Roma editions) 1 927 EUR; typesetting (Roma editions) 2 101 EUR; graphic design (Roma editions) 666 EUR; circulation 4 787 EUR; travel costs 12 161 EUR; printing cost 21 890 EUR; organization 5 037 EUR; own contribution 11 612 EUR
We would be grateful for any advice, comment or feedback related to the experience of European civil society organizations on press freedom violations and their best practices to combat them.