The key political roles of the media include providing information, checking the accountability of public figures and authorities, and creating a space for public debate. Among these roles, (un)covering corruption in its various forms is certainly a great task which may also be of great interest for the media. Reporting on occurrences of corruption or the suspicion of it conforms to preferred media policy, i.e., a hunt for negativity (good news is no news), and the media’s role as a moral lighthouse.
This article deals with possible challenges of research that is based either on perceptions (opinion polls) or assumptions (annual surveys among professionals related to freedom of press), including indicators about the level of corruption based on media coverage. The article explores the real roles of the media in (un) covering and thus directly or indirectly fighting some aspects of corruption (namely suspicions or evidence of fraud, irregularity or misappropriation of allocated EU funds money) as reported by selected newspapers in the United Kingdom, Italy, Slovakia, France, Hungary, Latvia, and Romania. Moreover, the research is also set into a specific context (sub-case study) with the Hungarian example, as among our sample, Hungary appears to be the country where media (in absolute as well as in relative numbers) most heavily (and increasingly— in the long term—more frequently) cover suspicions or evidence of fraud, irregularity or misappropriation of allocated EU funds. The situation in both politics and the media environment in Hungary also appears to be one of the most problematic among EU member states (Trencsenyi, 2013/2014;1Göncz, 2016; Mong, Nagy, Polyák and Urbán 2016; Magyar, 2016; O´Sullivan and Pócza, 2015). The research thus focused on the question as to how these contradictions were reflected in media coverage of suspicions or evidence of fraud, irregularity or a misappropriation of allocated EU funds money in selected Hungarian media in comparison with other countries in our sample. The second, and more general, question is, what does this research data tell us about the role of the media in covering corruption?