The moderate Fidesz weekly: Heti Válasz

The beginnings of Heti Válasz  were not exactly glorious. The Orbán government made every effort to establish a series of newspapers, weeklies, and radio stations committed to Fidesz and espousing its right-wing ideology. While most of the papers and electronic media were purchased by well-heeled Fidesz sympathizers with perhaps a small infusion of Fidesz money, Heti Válasz was financed solely by the government. That is, the taxpayers' money. First, the government gave a generous grant, perhaps even a billion forints, to a foundation that in turn established the weekly. The problem began with the name of the publication. The original plan was to call it simply Válasz (Answer), the same name as a famous liberal literary magazine established after the war. However, the children of the original owner and publisher of Válasz refused to allow the use of the name. I wasn't surprised. So it became Heti Válasz (Weekly Answer). The beginnings were rocky but then Gábor Borókai, government spokesman during the Orbán government, took over the job of running the paper. Under his stewardship the paper has been doing better financially. Whether it is doing a better job of reporting accurately is up for grabs. The latest incident shows that although Heti Válasz is better than the two right-wing dailies, Magyar Nemzet and Magyar Hírlap, there are still serious problems.

Péter Boross, former prime minister and the grand old man of MDF, is beside himself. Heti Válasz is publishing an article tomorrow entitled "Péter Boross pounced upon Ibolya Dávid." According to the article, Boross, a great friend of Ibolya Dávid, right after Dávid released the tape suggesting that Kornél Almássy was an "agent" of Fidesz, argued at an MDF meeting from which both Dávid and Almássy were absent that the two contenders should step down and give up the idea of running for the post of party leader. As far as I can recall, Boross in fact said at the time that under the circumstances when there was a possibility of early elections it would be a big mistake to have a change of leadership. Borókai is sticking by his guns: they are talking about another occasion. Someone present at the meeting attested to the veracity of this remark. Of course, there was only one piece of information that reached Heti Válasz. No confirmation but Hungarian newspapers are not too fussy. They hear something and immediately rush to print it. Fact checking is not exactly their strong suit. This is especially true when it comes to right-wing papers. If I had as many 100 dollar bills as Magyar Nemzet had to make corrections I would be a great deal richer than I am at the moment. However, they don't seem to learn. Or rather, I suspect, they don't care. Who is going to read the correction hidden in small type? But a juicy story, that's something else. That makes Magyar Nemzet's readers very happy: socialist parliamentary member X is building a luxury villa at Lake Balaton. Oops! The villa is being built on the next lot not belonging to X. Never mind!

Even from the brief synopsis of the full article that will be available only tomorrow it seems that there is a new Fidesz assault underway against MDF. Not only did Péter Boross "pounce upon Ibolya Dávid" but Heti Válasz "pounced upon" Zoltán Lengyel, the former Fidesz member who was booted out of the Fidesz caucus because of his rather checkered career including an investigation of his case of attacking policemen who stopped him in the dead of night half naked. (I wrote about the bizarre case on July 10, 2007. The title: "The gentleman driver.") In order to save the MDF caucus Lengyel had to be taken in. Well, Lengyel is bad enough news by himself, but for Heti Válasz he is not quite enough. All shady characters who ever belonged to the Smallholders' Party are being dragged into the story as proof of MDF's moral decay. Surely MDF is not being attacked because of the party's threat to Fidesz. At the latest polls MDF's share of the electorate is one percent. However, the same poll claims a seven percent growth of the MSZP electorate, and it looks as if MDF might support the government's "umbrella package." I have the strong suspicion that Heti Válasz's attack on MDF has more to do with the austerity program and MSZP-MDF relations than anything else.