Hungarian TV Told to Not Show Migrant Children

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Budapest, capital of Hungary

The warning to state TV comes as the refugee crisis dominates European headlines.

Producers and editors at a Hungarian state TV channel have been told to avoid screening footage showing the children of migrants and refugees.

Hungary has become one of the focal points of Europe's migrant crisis, because refugees fleeing war and economic hardship see it as a key hub for journeys onwards to Germany, France and the U.K.

The country's right wing-government, headed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban – who has already established a reputation for curbing media freedom – has attempted to stem the flow of migrants into the country by building a 100-mile long razor fence on its southern border with Serbia. But this has not stopped tens of thousands of desperate people from reaching the capital, Budapest, where this week riot police closed down a central railway station to prevent migrants and their families from boarding trains heading to Austria.

While television footage and newspaper front pages across Europe have been dominated by images of refugees holding aloft their children, a leaked screenshot of a memo with editorial advice reveals reporters at news channel M1 were urged to keep children out of their stories about migration. The local media authority MTVA has now denied the editorial advice was aimed at limiting public sympathy for the migrants' cause.

Speaking to The Guardian, a source said the memo was actually designed to protect children.

It is not the first time Hungarian state organizations have been accused of censorship. In July it emerged that Gyula Nemes, the director of the controversial eco-drama Zero had been told to blacken out the face of the prime minister in a scene where a character shoots melons decorated with the images of European politicians.

Hungary's role as a key transit point has highlighted its government's attitudes towards refugees and migrants and the coverage given to the crisis by the media.

State channels in Hungary have focused on clashes between migrants and police at the border and outside Budapest's Keleti railway station, but have given scant coverage to protests against the government's policies toward refugees.

Orban's right-wing government clashed with the EU last year when it introduced a progressive media advertising profit tax that seemed designed to cripple the last remaining major independent broadcaster, RTL.

The government was forced to back down after the European commission forbid it to levy the tax.