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.