Ferenc Gyurcsány's media man is Zsolt Gréczy, a former reporter for Népszabadság who served in the prime minister's office during the Gyurcsány and Bajnai governments. Gréczy is an ardent Gyurcsány supporter who usually accompanies the former prime minister to all his public appearances. In addition, he wrote a blog on www.stop.hu, "A dumánál," referring to parliament by its Russian name and in Hungarian slang for useless talk. He also frequently appeared on the op-ed page of Népszava, a socialist paper. He is an unabashed supporter of Ferenc Gyurcsány who tirelessly defends the former prime minister against every attack.
Yesterday in vain was I looking for Gréczy's blog on www.stop.hu. "At the Danube" had disappeared. Népszava followed suit: the last article of his that had appeared in the print version of the paper was removed from the on-line version. Rumor has it that MSZP's László Puch, who holds the purse strings of the party, told the editors of www.stop.hu and Népszava that they can no longer expect any donations from the party as long as they publish Gréczy's articles. The problem is that the left-wing media are in such a sorry financial state that without the couple of million forints they occasionally receive from MSZP they would have to close up shop. Népszava, for example, is in such straits that it cannot even afford to subscribe to MTI's news service.
Ferenc Gyurcsány is naturally up in arms. He compared the situation to the Kádár regime in which György Aczél was responsible for "cultural policy." Aczél was an autodidact with a keen literary taste who managed to keep Hungarian writers in line, but he did it in such a way that he succeeded in cultivating good relationships with most of the literary greats. His policy was based on something he called the "three T's": tilt-tűr-támogat (forbids, tolerates, supports). Ágnes Heller; István Örkény, a great Hungarian writer; György Bencze, the philosopher; István Csurka, later MIÉP leader but in those days a talented playwright; and Sándor Csoóri, the poet who later became a great supporter of Viktor Orbán, were often in the "tilt-forbid" category only to be forgiven eventually. The sole exception was Ágnes Heller, who was forced into exile.
So, says Gyurcsány, Hungary is returning to the times of Aczél. He recalls in his Facebook note that a few weeks ago a reporter for TV2 who called attention to President Schmitt's atrocious spelling errors left the channel "at his own request." According to him there are people who use money to influence politics, and surely he must be thinking of László Puch who "is lurking in the background." That's why there must be new elections in the party. Puch is using MSZP money to blackball him and prevent the reconstruction of the party.
Of course, this is bad, very bad, but as László Bartus, editor-in-chief of Amerikai-Magyar Népszava, rightly points out, MSZP-SZDSZ had eight years to build up a robust left-liberal media. If Viktor Orbán managed to convince well-heeled Hungarian businessmen to invest, even if at a loss, in Magyar Nemzet, Magyar Hírlap, HírTV, Heti Válasz, InfoRádió, Helyi Théma, just to mention the best known organs, surely there must have been people who would have been willing to sink some money into the liberal media. But neither SZDSZ nor MSZP paid the slightest attention to the matter. The old Magyar Hírlap was a liberal paper with close ties to SZDSZ that at one point simply couldn't pay its bills. It was purchased by the ultra-right-wing Gábor Széles who transformed it into a far-right, anti-semitic rag. The same Széles also put billions into a far-right television station, Echo TV.
Viktor Orbán in 2002, analyzing Prime Minister József Antall's political shortcomings, told his biographer József Debreczeni that Antall made a dreadful mistake by not putting more effort into developing a conservative media that could combat the then admittedly overwhelmingly liberal media scene. He revealed to Debreczeni that he put quite a bit of effort into this endeavor during the first Fidesz government. And indeed, one by one, new right-wing organs emerged. Some of them came into being by direct government financing (Heti Válasz), but others were purchased by individual businessmen. Whether these people got any government or Fidesz money we will never know. But it doesn't really matter. What matters is that Fidesz has a "media empire" while the opposition has mighty very few organs, most on their last legs. Klubrádió begs for 12 minutes for 12,000 forints. ATV, the only liberal television station, couldn't survive without the support of a Hungarian fundamentalist church called Hitgyülekezet (Assembly of God). Népszabadság is owned by the Ringier Group and is losing money. If something is not done soon, there will be no opposition media. The whole scene will be ruled by such papers as Magyar Nemzet. The only hope is the Internet, but even there without firm financial backing online papers cannot survive. There remain blogs written by individuals but will that be enough when MTV and HírTV are spewing out government propaganda? Most likely not.
Gyurcsány supporters are naturally up in arms. One commenter on his Facebook page already announced that although normally she buys Népszava daily, today she didn't. If the rumor that among party members Gyurcsány is the favorite I really wonder whether this MSZP move, perhaps cooked up by László Puch, is a good strategy. I doubt it. A few days ago Gyurcsány had only 5,000 some "fans." Today I saw over 7,000. We will see what will happen, but I suspect that by barring Gréczy from these publications MSZP is only shooting itself in the foot.