What is the truth? News about Hungary abroad and at home

I always find it amusing to read the headlines of Magyar Nemzet and compare them to the contents of the articles. Today, for example, one reads: "Hungary received significant tribute: 147 suggestions from the United Nations." From the body of the article one finds out that at the UN Human Rights Council hearing Switzerland, for example, severely criticized the Hungarian government's handling of the events in Gyöngyöspata but, according to Zoltán Balog who headed the twenty-member delegation to Geneva to answer questions concerning the state of human rights in Hungary, this criticism was unfounded. After all, the Hungarian government's opinion of the criminal elements present in the village is exactly the same as that of the critics.

Then it turned out that the critics also had some harsh things to say about the constitution, but here the problem is "lack of knowledge." Among the 147 suggestions there was one that criticized the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman and suggested different wording, but Balog hastily added that this is one suggestion the Hungarian government will certainly not consider accepting.

It doesn't matter how much Magyar Nemzet is trying to make light of the "grilling of Hungary," as one English-language publication described the proceedings, it is hard to think after reading the whole article that "Hungary received significant tribute" of any kind.

The first piece of foreign news I read on the subject–prior to the hearing–was an interview with Markus Loening, head of Germany's human rights mission, in Tagesspiegel (May 9, 2011). He was especially concerned about the media law. He announced that they have "the right to ask questions, including critical questions" and he was planning to do just that in Geneva. Although Balog didn't mention it to MTI, there were also some embarrassing questions about the restrictions on the constitutional court. Loening also said a few less than complimentary words about Viktor Orbán who, in his opinion, refuses to have a dialogue with people who hold different opinions.

Balog naturally didn't like what he saw in Tagesspiegel and expressed his conviction that the interview was "manipulated," a favorite description of foreign media discussions of Hungarian events. He cleverly didn't criticize Loening but blamed the newspaper for trying to give the impression that the Hungarian prime minister rejects outside advice and opinions on Hungarian affairs.

By the time Balog got to Geneva he was ready to combat the "anti-Hungarian forces" that gathered there. When it came to the new constitution, he announced to the committee members that "it is a milestone in the development of Hungarian legal history, especially when it comes to human rights." He announced as his fellow politicians often do that this constitution marks the end of "a transitionary period between dictatorship and democracy." Yet it looks as if those present were not convinced. They kept criticizing the constitution as well as the media law, the restrictions imposed on the constitutional court, and the sitution of the Roma.

Although Balog tried to sell the meeting as a great success for Hungary, a British website dealing with journalism summed up the serious criticism over the media law. According to the journalist reporting on the meeting, representatives from the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands addressed concerns over the law, asking for clarifications and assurances over its implementation. The U.S. delegate John C. Mariz criticized Hungary for "a departure from the Hungarian tradition of multi-party appointments to the media regulatory board, which raises concerns over strict regulation and limitations on freedom of expression." He called on Hungary to "fully comply with its obligations related to freedom of expression, including for members of the press." UK deputy ambassador Philip Tissot recommended amendments to Hungary's law and asked for "further clarification of how the independence of the media authority and the media council will be guaranteed and on what basis penalties will be imposed from 1 July." According to the author of the article "Balog acknowledged the concern of the various delegations over the law, but did not take the time to respond to the individual points raised."

Thus foreign summaries reported serious misgivings on many fronts: the Roma question, the media law, the constitutional court, the new constitution, but all that was greatly minimized in the Hungarian media. Balog had to admit that the Hungarian delegation received 147 "suggestions" but added that this is average, neither better nor worse than other countries fare before the Human Rights Council of the United Nations in their quadrennial review.

It doesn't matter which foreign paper I read, I fail to see the "significant tribute" Hungary received in Geneva. That appeared only in the two Hungarian right-wing papers: Magyar Nemzet and Magyar Hírlap. Thus those people who read only these mouthpieces of the government–and there are many–will have an entirely false picture of what transpired in Geneva. I might add here that Magyar Hírlap apparently lost a sizeable portion of its readership while the socialist Népszava gained new readers. I suspect that this trend will continue because of the decline in Fidesz popularity.

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Johnny Boy
Guest

The truth is that – sorry for being a little offtopic – Zsolt Gréczy’s blog, along with all traces of him, have been deleted by MSZP from their place, stop.hu.
Maybe you fought against the wrong enemy for the freedom of speech.

Ron
Guest

Here are some of the reports submitted by and to Hungary including some advanced questions. Please select option E for language.
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR%5CPAGES%5CHUSession11.aspx

Ron
Guest

Apparently, there is also a webcast of his review. Unfortunately, it has not been yet published.
http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/index.asp
http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/archive.asp?go=110511#am2

Paul
Guest

The ‘truth’, as our little deviant puts it, will commence from July 1st. That’s when we’ll, at last, start to find out just what Orbán’s ‘new’ Hungary is going to be like to live in.

Jano
Guest

I don’t know why JB put this thing here, but I’d also welcome a summary about what’s happening at MSZP these days, it’s little hard to follow as I have to work hard now.

Odin's Lost Eye
Guest

Professor you write * “Although Balog tried to sell the meeting as a great success for Hungary, a British website dealing with journalism summed up the serious criticism over the media law” *.
Here the problem is ‘Does the Hungarian population know the real truth?’ How much of the Hungarian ‘news’ do the Hungarians really believe? How able are the Hungarians to ‘read between the lines’.
Our tame troll seems to be able to ‘put spin’ (for those who play baseball ‘English’) on to anything even perhaps the test results on a train braking system.
Professor you are writing a blog in the English language explaining the latest products output from the peddle driven Hungarian ‘BUNK-O-MATIC’ (© Mutt Damon MMXI) –Out tame troll must be sweating profusely peddling it these days- Whilst the blog explains what is going on it can only be understood by English speakers. How is Pisti and Jonsi get the truth? Or does he care?
His present existence is one of working all hours for a pittance (his hours are well beyond those allowed by the ‘Working time Directive’)! just to feed himself and his family.

Johnny Boy
Guest

“British website dealing with journalism summed up the serious criticism over the media law”
All of which was unfounded criticism, and all of which was easily rebutted.
So what’s wrong with such criticism? I think nothing.

Johnny Boy
Guest

Paul: “as our little deviant puts it”
You unwillingly nailed it, the nurse is considered a deviant in the asylum.

Paul
Guest

‘Johnny’, you may not like being called a deviant (little people never can take what they dish out), but in the civilised 21st century, that is exactly what you are.
You are out of place and out of time.

dani
Guest

I actually enjoy Magyar Nemzet occasionally – feels like the news of a different hungarian-speaking country – a parallel universe maybe?
such a bloody irrelevant paper.

Johnny Boy
Guest

“such a bloody irrelevant paper”
If it weren’t for this bloody irrelevant paper, then Hagyó, Hunvald, Zuschlag and all other MSZP inmates were free as birds today, and Gyurcsány would probably still be Hungary’s PM.
I bet you widh your papers were that irrelevant.
Paul: “in the civilised 21st century, that is exactly what you are.
You are out of place and out of time.”
Too bad most other cars seem to come up you on the highway.

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