Fidesz’s latest: An attack on the on-line media

I already wrote about the proposed new Hungarian law that according to the international watchdogs of the media restricts freedom of expression. I remember mentioning in one of my blogs that it also includes references to the internet. The people who are behind the proposal consider the unregulated internet an irritant. The Fidesz media “experts” are especially annoyed by the existence of blogs. These blogs can say anything they want about the government or politicians without being responsible for the content of their writings. The authors of blogs don’t have to write retractions if they publish material that might be offensive to their subjects. Or, as Annamária Szalai, the future almighty head of the organization that will exercise control over the media soon enough, said: it is unacceptable that while a television station can be punished for showing a movie that the authorities consider inappropriate for children in the afternoon a television station that broadcasts on the internet will not have to follow the same rules.

Although the proposed new media law that journalists considered to be an attack on their professional freedom was discussed only inside of the country, soon enough it became international news. Articles appeared in western papers that compared it to the media law of Putin’s Russia. One would have thought that such a comparison would deter the Hungarian government and it would retreat somewhat. Instead exactly the opposite has happened. Fidesz itself is bringing the issue of control of the internet to the attention of the European Union.

The messenger is Mrs. Pelcz, née Ildikó Gáll. Until 2006 no one ever heard of Mrs. Pelcz, who was a member of the city council of Miskolc. But then Viktor Orbán discovered her and I assume to the great surprise of the Fidesz leadership elevated her practically overnight to one of the highest positions in the party. She became one of the four deputies to Viktor Orbán himself. At the same time she was named one of the deputy leaders of the Fidesz parliamentary delegation. Meteoric rise, indeed. However, there were rumors that although Mrs. Pelcz smiled a lot in parliament and nodded vigorously every time Tibor Navracsics said something very nasty, the chief decided that “she didn’t quite work out.” What the problem with her was from the point of view of the Fidesz leadership I have no idea. I find her something of a dim bulb in spite her impressive record on paper. First she received an engineering degree (heavy industry), then another degree in economics; she claims knowledge of English, German, and Russian (the last two only on an elementary level); she is also a certified public accountant. Also, she is attractive.

Pelczné

In any case, it seems that all this wasn’t enough and Orbán’s enthusiasm for the new star of Fidesz waned considerably in the last four years. The first surprise was that Orbán made it clear that Mrs. Pelcz wouldn’t have any position in the new government. She was stripped of her position as deputy leader of the Fidesz parliamentary delegation. He mysteriously added that Mrs. Pelcz will have another important position instead. That position turned out to be membership in the Fidesz delegation to the European Parliament. A great number of “has beens” ended up in that delegation: János Áder, former speaker of the house and head of the Fidesz delegation, is now in Brussels although his knowledge of foreign languages is practically nonexistent. Old college friend and sport minister in the first Orbán government, Tamás Deutsch, also ended up in Brussels. And now they are joined by Mrs. Pelcz. Pál Schmitt who was recently named one of the deputy speakers of the European Parliament was recalled to become speaker of the house of the Hungarian parliament only to become a couple of months later the president of the republic. Mrs. Pelcz took his place as a member of the Christian Democratic caucus. Schmitt’s position as deputy speaker of the European Parliament was passed on to László Tőkés, the Hungarian nationalist politician from Romania. All in the family.

I wrote about Mrs. Pelcz only once at length, on January 28, 2009 (“Fidesz and the European Union“), in which I described a meeting at which the two speakers, Tibor Navracsics and Mrs. Pelcz, severely criticized the European Union and even questioned Hungary’s membership in it. Navracsics announced that there are many people who question the advantages of membership “and thus we are in a situation in which we will have to reevaluate many things, including our membership” in the organization. Mrs. Pelcz added that “Hungary is unequivocally the loser in the deal.” How interesting. Now she is a member of the parliament of the very European Union that she found only a year and a half ago disadvantageous from Hungary’s point of view.

It seems that Mrs. Pelcz started her career in Brussels with a bang. She became a member of the Committee on Education and Culture where at the moment the members are putting together a proposal that would take a look at broadcasting in the digital age. She proposed an amendment in which she brought up the topic of the internet and its supervision. She also addressed a letter to the chairman of the committee expecting answers to her questions. Among other things she wanted to know whether it is an “acceptable practice that hiding behind the mask of democracy bloggers can direct unjust criticism toward the government.” She asked what the committee is planning to do in such cases.

I really wonder what the other members of the committee think of Mrs. Pelcz and Hungary after reading her probing letter. Only in a dictatorship is it customary to punish people who “unjustly” criticize their government. After Krisztina Morvay of Jobbik who made a spectacle of herself in Brussels now there is also Mrs Pelcz.

I don’t know who supervises the activities and statements of a Fidesz member of the European Parliament. I can’t imagine that she can submit an amendment to a proposal under discussion on her own. The head of the Fidesz delegation in Brussels, József Szájer, must surely approve individual members’ activities. I can’t even imagine that Szájer can act on his own in such a weighty matter. Fidesz is not that kind of party. I suspect that we should search for the culprit for such an outlandish move at the very top. And that again shows that Orbán simply doesn’t understand Europe and the European Union. He in fact doesn’t understand democracy and has no idea of the meaning of the freedom of expression. Or perhaps he understands them all too well and simply doesn’t want them for Hungary.

 

 

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Paul Haynes
Guest

Loath as I am to give this drivel any credence by discussing it, surely even Fidesz understands that there is no ‘afternoon’ (or any other time) on the internet?
(You have only to check the timestamp for this comment to realise this – it was actually posted at 12:26 am!)

Paul Haynes
Guest

Oops – at some point in my (several) attempts to post this comment the original quote got lost. My comment should have begun:
“it is unacceptable that while a television station can be punished for showing a movie that the authorities consider inappropriate for children in the afternoon a television station that broadcasts on the internet will not have to follow the same rules.”

Mark
Guest

I’m afraid this isn’t just happening in Hungary, but similar attempts are being made by the Italian government (though thanks to the defection of a significant part of the former governing party it no longer has a parliamentary majority):
http://www.journalism.co.uk/2/articles/539877.php

Member

“Among other things she wanted to know whether it is an “acceptable practice that hiding behind the mask of democracy bloggers can direct unjust criticism toward the government.” She asked what the committee is planning to do in such cases.
I really wonder what the other members of the committee think of Mrs. Pelcz and Hungary after reading her probing letter. Only in a dictatorship is it customary to punish people who “unjustly” criticize their government.”
This is the EU that we are talking about, not exactly welcolming of criticism. I think that they would love a law allowing them to prosecute their critics, they have just the right mixture of self-righteousness and insecurity for it.
Don’t write off this proposal’s chances of success.

John T
Guest

David – I think you are wrong here. Criticism is unwelcome, but it is an acceptable part of the democratic process. And if this law was implemented by domestic governments, there would be a massive backlash. Sadly, I don’t see the same happening in Hungary. People just don’t seem to be bothered.

Odin's Lost Eye
Guest
This piece reports that Mrs. Pelcz ** “Wanted to know whether it is an “acceptable practice that hiding behind the mask of democracy bloggers can direct unjust criticism toward the government”” **. “Unjust criticism”! “Hiding behind the mask of democracy?”. The fundamental basis of democracy is anomimity, secrecy, call it what you will. No one must ever know how an elector cast his/her vote. When I say ‘no one’ I mean “NO ONE” not even the ‘Mighty One’ (Orban Viktor) may know how old Pisti cast his vote. Mrs. Pelcz would like to know how ‘old Pisti’ in case he voted for the wrong candidate. Then she could send in a ‘Goon squad’ to ‘teach him right from wrong. Both she and the Mighty One would like to cast old Pisti’s vote for him. Better still why bother with elections at all? In the matter of Unjust criticism. In the eyes of Mrs. Pelcz any (and all) criticism of the pronouncements of Orban Viktor, Fidesz and herself are unjust. All criticism must be suppressed and the critics punished. Now where have I seen that idea before? Mrs. Pelcz be careful what you want for your ‘Mighty One’, Remember what Laszlo… Read more »
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