by István Lovas
Do you wonder what you are going to read in the mainstream press on Hungary tomorrow? I will tell you. The same as yesterday, and the same as in the past almost seven years since Hungary’s right-of-center Fidesz government, led by the Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, was elected.
You will learn that Mr. Orbán is a populist, an autocratic ruler, a menace to Europe, and a politician not hesitating to use anti-Semitic language in order to win over voters of the far-right Jobbik, and cover up uncomfortable truths about whatever is on the agenda in Hungary on that day.
He, of course, has muzzled the media, made the court system a handmaiden of the ruling elite, abolished checks and balances, while he is suffocating the voice of dissenters, creates inordinate fear, chases away half of the country beyond Hungary’s borders, and the rest of the stuff.
Lately, Hungary has been called the safe haven of the European ultra-right. At the time when Hungary’s authorities have arrested and expelled two such figures, such as Nick Griffin and James Dawson, both of them ultra-right British politicians.
In our “free” media world, it is impossible to request corrections from any western media with regard to outright lies that they publish about Hungary, and those lies will be repeated ad nauseam.
So, if you just want to read yet another of the mainstream media mill churning out the same heap of trash, and want to see how Hungary’s regime reminds you of the “darkest period of history”, turn, please, to the Washington Post, the New York Times, The Guardian, the German, the French, and the Austrian mainstream press. Here, in this article, you will find facts. That you have never heard of. Only if you go to Hungary and look around for yourself.
First, let us glance at how the Hungarian press is “muzzled.”
Have you ever heard of any Western voice complaining about the media situation in Serbia, Hungary’s southern neighbor? No. Well, in that country of 7,4 million people, the opposition has a single national political daily newspaper with a circulation of 2,000. The rest is pro-government stuff.
In a sharp contrast to Hungary where the combined circulation of the two national dailies in opposition to the government is clearly superior to that of the two national pro-government dailies.
Out of the six weeklies that you can see at any newsstand, supermarket, or gas station, only two are pro-government.
One million people watch the news program of RTL Klub, a commercial television station owned by a Luxembourg-based media group. The Hungarian public television, controlled strictly indeed by the government, has a viewership that is one tenth of RTL’s. Other than that, Hungarians can switch, in addition to RTL KLub, to ATV or HirTV if they want to be informed how corrupt and horrible their government is. And where expert after expert try desperately to find a reason why Hungarians still overwhelmingly support their horrible incumbent government, and why Fidesz will win handily in next year’s election.
Self-censorship in the opposition media? Come on, there is no country on the face of the earth where you can say things about the Prime Minister or members of the ruling Fidesz party that can appear in an American paper only as three dots.
On June 10th, the 88th Book Festival Week was officially opened in Budapest with the speech of a Hungarian writer called Pál Závada. He started his speech by declaring that he has to speak in the gag press of a one party, autocratic state.
What do you think, who financed the festive event? None other than the government.
The government sponsors almost of all its enemies and dissenters with a magnanimity that is unimaginable in any other country. And they – both the government and the dissenters – are mum about it.
It is a special Hungarian disease that you can call a political Stockholm syndrome that you cannot find anywhere else in the world.
The head of the court system in Hungary is a lady, called Tünde Handó, who selected a judge to a key position, who is the sworn enemy of the incumbent government, and who sentenced an editor-in-chief of the weekly Demokrata to prison for writing something during the previous, socialist-liberal government that was offensive to that government.
The chief Hungarian public prosecutor is a person who has been described by two well-known Hungarian pro-Fidesz journalists, Zsolt Bayer and Péter Csermely, as a stooge of the “other side”. No wonder that practically not a single leading corrupt socialist politician is in prison, including the most rotten figure of all, former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, who ordered the police force to remove their ID numbers, and shoot rubber bullets at, and kicking almost to death, innocent passers-bye during a public revolt in the fall of 2016.
The anti-Semitism charge leveled regularly against the Orbán government is the biggest fake news of our times.
Take the Maccabiah Games, the international Jewish multi-sport event held quadrennially in Israel. Except in 2019 when it will be staged in Budapest. At the cost of the Hungarian taxpayers.
There is no gesture, including self-destructing ones, the Hungarian government would not be willing to engage in order to show its unconditional loyalty to Israel and the Jewish people. Hungary’s ambassador in Israel, Andor Nagy, told the Jerusalem Post that anti-Semitism was growing in Hungary when, in fact, it was declining. However, he thought that that such talk would please the daily. And he was not recalled.
The Hungarian government is supporting the Hungarian Jewish community with huge amounts of money, restoring synagogues and cemeteries.
And the country, including the culturally vibrant Jewish quarter of the capital, Budapest, is the safest for its inhabitants and visitors in whole of Europe. It is a district where Jews feel completely secure and at ease, not being afraid, just like in any other corner of Hungary, to stroll while showing their religious identity.
Or take MTI, the official Hungarian news agency. It does not have a single correspondent in China, Hungary’s strategic partner, but it has one in Jerusalem.
In spite of all this, the country and its government will be attacked tomorrow with the assistance of Hungarian Jewish organizations that have accustomed to the idea that any charge of anti-Semitism thrown at the government or the Prime Minister, coming from them or their co-religionists abroad, would surely increase their budget.
The government’s masochistic policy is in evidence in every walk of life.
Hungary’s lobby organization in the U.S., the Hungarian Initiatives Foundation, led by Tamás Fellegi, a figure with a shady past in the United States before 1990, supports Hungary’s most acerbic critics in the United States. Most lately, he has provided substantial financial assistance to a foundation set up by Ann Applebaum, Hungary’s fiercest critic in the Washington Post, with an amount of money that would make any Hungarian voter extremely angry if it were told about it.
Any other questions?
István Lovas is a Hungarian print and television journalist who worked for Radio Free Europe and started his journalistic work with articles that appeared in The Wall Street Journal, and Japan Today.