The Journalists Association of Bavaria presented their annual Rainer Reichert Prize for Press Freedom Day to IPI partner Taz for the newspaper’s investigation into a disinformation campaign on Hungarian state television targeting Austrian journalist and IPI member Franziska Tschinderle.

“An emotionally and intellectually powerful article that gets under your skin”, the jury of the 2024 Rainer Richter for Press Freedom Day award described Taz’s investigation, titled “Fighters on Orbán’s Media Front”.

The investigation is one of the four case studies that are part of the IPI-led project Decoding the Disinformation Playbook of Populists in Europe, A joint effort with the Croatian fact-checking outlet Faktograf and the investigative unit at the German daily Taz, the project aims to understand the patterns of disinformation campaigns targeting journalists across Europe as part of a broader effort by populists and extremists to intimidate those at the forefront of combatting disinformation and erode the trust of the public in evidence-based journalism.

TDG – © Thomas Geiger

The investigation conducted by the members of the Taz team, Christian Jakob, Jean-Philipp Baeck and Luisa Kuhn, sought to understand how Austrian journalist Franziska Tschinderle was smeared for days in Hungarian TV news in 2021. Tschinderle had merely done what is standard in journalism: asking critical questions to political leaders. The Hungarian government party Fidesz reacted strongly.

The team spoke with former high-ranking employees of Hungary’s state media, as well as with academics, activists, and politicians, and were able to access internal documents. Eventually, they stumbled upon the garden of the main author of the reports about Franziska Tschinderle in rural Hungary, uncovering how pro-government media and government collaborate to silence critical journalists. 

“It describes a breach of taboo. Journalists betray what they are supposed to protect. Press freedom. A multifaceted, meticulously researched contribution, strong also on the meta-level,” the jury commented.

Listen to the podcast episode in which we talk about how we conducted this investigation:

As part of the project, Taz also published an investigation into a disinformation campaign launched on Telegram by the far-right against Alexander Roth, a young journalist working for a local newspaper in the north of Stuttgart. Faktograf conducted an in-depth investigation into the online and legal harassment campaign against their own operation launched by purveyors of disinformation in Croatia. Finally, IPI also published a case study on the coordinated campaign by conspiracy groups to sabotage the media literacy project “El BuloBus: Ruta contra la mentira” (“HoaxBus: A tour against disinformation”, an initiative by the Spanish fact-checking outlet

The project will focus this year in the disinformation campaigns against journalists within the framework of the European Elections. 

The project Decoding the disinformation playbook of populism in Europe is supported by the European Media and Information Fund, managed by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.