Hungary: Towards the Abyss

2013. május 26. 09:55
Glenn Ellis
Al Jazeera

Investigating why critics of Hungary's authoritarian government believe it is leading the country towards fascism.

Heller, an outspoken critic of Fidesz, was recently the victim of a state sponsored smear campaign which alleged she had embezzled educational funds. There was no evidence and the charges were eventually dropped, but only after pro-government newspapers splashed the bogus story all over their front pages. Then there have been the slogans daubed on her office door at the university. One reads: »Jews should not teach at the University.«

»I was attacked for two reasons,« she told me, »firstly because I'm a Jew - that is very important because Jews are basically seen as the enemies of the people and secondly because I’m a liberal and if you say someone’s a liberal it is worse than if you say he’s a Nazi.« (…) 

But last January, Nemeth's close friend and a co-founder of the ruling Fidesz Party, Zolt Bayer, wrote an article for the pro-Fidesz daily, Magyar Hirlap, that put an altogether more sinister spin on the violence. (…)

Even in a country slipping towards the far-right, the article caused an outcry, yet Laszlo Kover, the president of the Hungarian parliament, was happy to defend it. »Actually the piece we are talking about is something that I would have written differently, bearing in mind that I'm a politician and not a journalist or writer. But if we just take the article itself and view it objectively then we could say that it has a lot of statements which are acceptable.«

Following a complaint from an independent civic organization called the Otherness Foundation, the NMIA (National Media and Infocommunications Authority) did eventually hit the Magyar Hirlap with a fine of 850 Euros (250,000 forints), saying that in publishing Zsolt Bayer’s article the paper had broken Hungarian media law by publishing a piece that incited hatred and discrimination and then by failing to take it off its website quickly enough.

However, the relatively modest size of the fine did little to diminish offence the article had already caused. Opponents have also since pointed out that the NMIA’s Media Council (which issued the censure ) is in itself a consequence of Orban’s increasingly tight grip on news reporting because it is made up of Fidesz party loyalists. This, according to award-winning Journalist Balazs Nagy Navarro, combined with a purge of potential critics at the public television station, Magyar Television, has had a dramatic effect on press freedom.

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