Monthly Archives: December 2010

Some historical perspectives on freedom of speech

József Debreczeni wrote an opinion piece in Népszabadság (December 24, 2010) entitled "At the end of the leash?" In it he outlines the possible consequences of one of the most notorious paragraphs in the new media law. The paragraph reads: "any statement in the media which is qualified as an overt or covert insult of persons, nations, communities, national, ethnic, linguistic or other minorities or any majority, in addition to any church or religious groups is punishable." According to Debreczeni, no such restrictive media law existed either during the dualistic period (1867-1918) or in the … Read the rest

The pressure on the Hungarian government continues

Yesterday I left off with Péter Szijjártó, the spokesman of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, suggesting that MTI’s reporters misunderstood the German government’s position on the Hungarian media law. He in fact phoned Angela Merkel’s office and talked to the deputy spokesman asking for an explanation. Subsequently, he gave a less than complete summary of the spokesman’s message to the Hungarian government.

The Germans in turn decided to make sure that there is no further “misunderstanding.” First, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle phoned János Martonyi and, to make sure that the message … Read the rest

Quite a day: Serious warnings for Hungary

This morning I did practically nothing else but read one article after another about the devastating reaction to the passage of the new Hungarian media law. The onslaught of very negative articles began already yesterday. I would like to quote a few representative opinions.

Let’s start with one of the earliest articles that appeared in El País that claimed that this media law “practically finishes off the freedom of the press.” According to the Spanish left-of-center paper the law borders on “censorship.” But the Spanish paper pales in comparison to … Read the rest

The Hungarian media law is passed

Naturally its passage was never in question. Yet Fidesz demanded that all members of parliament vote by name. I assume this was necessary to make sure that no one, but no one from the Fidesz and Christian Democratic caucuses dares push the "wrong button" by mistake. A fear that not all 256 members of the Fidesz and KDNP caucuses present would vote for this draconian law and there wouldn't be a perfectly unanimous decision.

This procedure takes a long time and it often happens nowadays that parliament votes on very important pieces of … Read the rest

The newest opinion poll: noticeable Fidesz loss

This is the third poll that shows a decrease in Fidesz's popularity. Perhaps because the data collection took place after the appearance of the other two, Medián and Tárki, the change is even more dramatic. In earlier months the decrease in support was gradual. In May and June 3.3-3.4 million people considered themselves Fidesz supporters. Between then and November, Fidesz lost 300,000 voters who didn't immediately declare themselves to be potential voters for other parties but simply went over to the large group of the undecided. But in November and early December … Read the rest

The second plan to put Ferenc Gyurcsány into jail just failed

Viktor Orbán, who is not terribly sure-footed when it comes to handling the economy, was only too well prepared to establish a regime in which all that happens depends on his will. One of his goals was to see Ferenc Gyurcsány in jail. The first attempt at finding him guilty of using the Hungarian police force for political purposes during the 2006 disturbances failed. I wrote about the rigged committee's efforts to find just one policeman who would admit that Gyurcsány in any way tried to give them instructions. The committee members found no one … Read the rest

The newest outrage: Decision was made to destroy the archives of the secret service

Well, this will solve the problem. According to an announcement made yesterday, all the millions and millions of documents that were written by busy agents and informers reporting on their fellow citizens "will be made public." On the face of it, that might even seem a welcome piece of news. After twenty years of wrangling over the issue at last we will know the names of the informers and their victims. But the devil is in the details, as the saying goes, and it is very true in this case.

"Made public" for the Orbán … Read the rest