A fake tape snowballing into punitive legislation against journalists

It is hard to imagine that the Baja by-election is still a hot topic in the Hungarian media. By now the focus is not so much on the results and how they were achieved as on what followed. And it seems that the deeper we dig the greater a morass we find. The strange events surrounding a simple electoral fraud by now have snowballed into something that looks to me like an excellent political weapon to make sure that the election that really matters, the national election, will go the way Fidesz wants it to.

What do I mean? With the appearance of the phony video showing a number of Roma inhabitants of Baja, Fidesz managed to divert attention away from its own electoral fraud, committed not once but twice. Now everybody talks about the fraud that MSZP allegedly committed and not about the votes the local Fidesz paid for, despite tangible proof of the latter.

By now in one way or the other it is MSZP and to a lesser extent DK that are being accused of hiring people to stage a phony scene where money was exchanged between a representative of the Roma self-government and four inhabitants of Baja. Gusztáv Kőrös, the man who came forth with the “details” of MSZP’s involvement, is also a Roma official but from another town. According to his own very confused story, he was asked by two MSZP officials to produce the incriminating video. I might add here that our man was “under police protection” for three days. From whom were the police protecting him?

Let me state upfront that Kőrös’s story is totally unbelievable. If this is the best the people who are behind him could come up with, then any half-competent police force could easily solve the case in no time. That is, if they wanted to. But I very much doubt that the police actually want to.

snowballingYou may recall that at one point I suggested that the whole scheme was a simple ruse to get some quick money, perhaps from DK, which offered a reward for bona fide proof of electoral fraud. I no longer think that this was the case. After all, when Gusztáv Kőrös showed up at MSZP headquarters he asked no money for the DVD he handed over to a party official. So, I reasoned that local Baja Fidesz politicians might be behind the creation of the video. There is indirect evidence in support of that hypothesis. Before HVG released the video it was sent to Fidesz headquarters for their response. There was no answer. What does this tell me? That the Fidesz leadership wanted this video to be made public because they knew it was a fake.

MSZP, however, is not entirely innocent in this sordid affair. A few minutes ago the news broke that Gábor Gavra, former editor-in-chief of HVG, received the tape from MSZP. To be precise, from the director of communications of the party, Balázs Déri, at party headquarters. Of course, that doesn’t imply that MSZP was actually involved in the staging of the phony meeting, but it casts a shadow on the truthfulness of Attila Mesterházy who in the last few days steadfastly denied that there was any communication between the party and the editor-in-chief of HVG. All the MSZP politicians who talked about this affair claimed that, after receiving the tape, examining it, and finding it suspicious, they turned it over to the police. So, MSZP is sinking deeper and deeper into the quagmire while Fidesz is reaping the benefits of this whole sordid affair.

Fidesz is pushing its advantage, though perhaps too hard. In the name of the “purity of the election processes” Fidesz came forward with a proposal for a new provision to be incorporated into the Criminal Code. The proposed law is already nicknamed Lex HVG.

Antal Rogán, the whip of the Fidesz caucus, turned in the amendment to the new Criminal Code, which will come into force in December. If accepted, and why shouldn’t it be given the past record of the Fidesz-KDNP two-thirds majority, the burgeoning field of Hungarian investigative journalism will be stifled because the proposed amendment threatens any journalist who publishes material that a police investigation subsequently deems to be fake with jail time.

Very briefly outlined, here are the main points. (1) Someone who creates either an audio tape or a video in order to slander the reputation of another person will receive a jail term of one year. (2)  Anyone who makes such a tape or video available will get two years in jail. (3) Anyone who makes such a tape or video available to a wide audience (nagy nyilvánosság) will be jailed for three years.  And (4) anyone who didn’t ascertain the exact nature of such a tape or video because of “carelessness” (gondatlanság) will be jailed for at least one year.

So, the creator of a false tape or video will receive exactly the same sentence as the newspaperman who failed to ascertain, although he tried, the exact nature of the material he received. The whole amendment is outrageous, as Ákos Balogh, editor-in-chief of Mandiner, a moderate right-wing Internet site, pointed out this morning on ATV Start. In fact, the conservative Balogh was even more critical than his liberal counterpart, Dávid Trencséni of Stop. First of all, there is no need to introduce a new law on this particular issue because it is possible to handle such cases on the basis of the existing provisions of the Criminal Code. Second, such an amendment would greatly restrict the freedom of the media. Who will dare to publish any audio or visual material if he can face a stiff jail sentence? After all, no one can be 100% certain about the genuineness of such material. One would have to consult several experts, but even the experts might be wrong, and what will happen if the police’s expert says that it is a fake?

On the same ATV Start program the moderator interviewed Gergely Gulyás, the young legal expert of Fidesz, about this law, which is being fiercely debated among journalists and the general public. Gulyás is a self-assured fellow who can make the most outrageous things sound perfectly acceptable and reasonable. But this time even he seemed to be in trouble. He normally looks directly at the reporter without blinking an eye, but today he cast his eyes down far too often. Moreover, his excuses were feeble. It is not enough to say “don’t worry, no one will go to jail,” as he did. As the moderator rightly pointed out, why then do we need such a law?

I very much hope that this amendment will die because, if it doesn’t, the whole media controversy that was finally settled to the European Union’s apparent satisfaction will come to the fore again. If it passes, I hope that Brussels will be insistent that such punitive laws against journalists are unacceptable.

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
tappanch
Guest

The timing is important.

1. Fidesz will make this new law restricting media freedom in November 2013.
2. If needed, Fidesz will commit fraud in the April 2014 election. Journalists will not report it for fear of prosecution.
3. A year later, months after the election, EU will force the government to withdraw the law.

andy 'an atmospheric view'
Guest

Sometimes, during the unfolding of ‘history in the making’ you begin to feel helpless as evil hidden within human nature climbs out the cage that purportedly was erected to keep it from contaminating the surrounding environment. This is a case in point.

Guest

Wasn’t the tape with Gyurcsany’s “lying speech” presented to the public in a doctored version in so far as sentences were cited out of context?

Jano
Guest

Jean P: Yes (but let me remark, I don’t think the full text is much better), and don’t worry, the moment they feel they have the slightest chance to loose an election they will repeal it.

Jano
Guest

Eva: “All the MSZP politicians who talked about this affair claimed that, after receiving the tape, examining it, and finding it suspicious, they turned it over to the police.”

Actually, in the beginning they denied receiving it then they claimed what you wrote and now it’s the third version that Gavra got it from Deri.

I don’t think that MSZP ordered the video and after watching Koros with Olga Kalman (actually it’s a very entertaining watch, the man is trying to speak high Hungarian, but he is obviously way undereducated for that and therefore ends up saying ridiculous phrases), I’m confident that the guy is full of it. I think MSZP received the video and walked into a laughably primitive trap (honestly, these guys want to run a country???). Mind you, so did Gavra and I used to think rather highly of him for his work at HVG.

Anyway, MSZP fully deserves the feces falling on their head right now, too bad Fidesz is gaining so much out of it.

SzokolRádió
Guest
MSZP seems to be a bunch of complete amateurs, I mean there are no words. I guess people just wonder in awe, how can they be so stupid? It is almost like a Cohen-brothers movie with these characters like Blázs Déri and Zsolt Török. And since MSZP has no own media (unlike Fidesz which is extremely media savvy and prepares for the long term), they are out in the open. Gavra was good at HVG, I think it became much better under him, but I guess he needs to be looking for a new carreer. I mean why would any sane journalist go the HQ of a party to take over anything? Why would an MSZP politician think that it is normal to talk to a journalist in a party building? If it was such a big scoop than would it not have been more normal to send the file to the journalist? Hell, the Öszöd-tape was hand delivered to the media so that nobody until this day knows for sure how the thing was organized. Why would any journalist not be more critical of a tape received directly from a party politician? This story is far from over. MSZP… Read more »
spectator
Guest

I wonder when, if ever, the opposition will realise, that even the smallest step in the wrong direction – or the grey area if you will – fall back on them multiplied exponentially, since the Fidesz way more prepared to utilise every mistakes as they’ll ever be, and they don’t miss out a thing.
In this case: that’s small step in Baja – a giant leap for the Fidesz legislation…

Johnny Boy
Guest

No MSZP are not amaterus.
They just have no chance of getting away with the huge pile of lies they spouted out lately.
Upon every single new chunk of evidence coming to daylight, respectively confuting their latest lie, they come out with a new one. I long ago lost count of how many times Zsolt Török ‘made an arse out of his mouth’ in a matter of seconds.
And here comes Eva like “they allegedly forged” – there is a truckload of evidence that MSZP did the video.
Yet it is Fidesz’s fault of course. No, MSZP is not a heap of scum for forging a false evidence against Fidesz – the scum is Fidesz because they are gaining on MSZP having been busted.
Yeah right.
In civilized countries, the offenders go to jail for making such a video.
I hope Hungary is a civilized country.

Marty
Guest

Jano: I agree that the tape was probably a trap, but these MSZP guys are so amateurs and naive while Fidesz is an almost peerlessly savvy party adept at using the best kompromat tactics. Wonder what the old guard now thinks about Mesterházi and these youngsters, who represent the future of MSZP. And slowly the narrative will change (within the majority, not just in the Fidesz media) that it was MSZP which tried but failed to plant this fake against FIDESZ with the help of the liberal media. Fidesz successfully turned around the narrative on 2006 (so that it was not about burning down the TV building, and the hooligans terrorizing the people in the centre of Budapest, but about a freedom fight against the oppressors). Fidesz is a master of the media and knows all the time honored tactics from the playbook of the Okhrana.

tappanch
Guest
Dear fellow commentators, please do not get under the influence of the Fidesz propaganda department. Let us separate proven facts from uncertain events. Facts: 1. At the Baja by-election, Fidesz agents transported voters, which is against the current election law, but which is not forbidden by the new Fidesz election law from 2014. 2. Fidesz agents gave a big party with good food on the eve of the second round, which had been interpreted by the courts as against the election law. 3. Fidesz agents promised and delivered firewood to voters in return for their votes. This is against the election law. 4. There is a videotape made at an uncertain time showing that an alleged Fidesz agent gives money to people in return for their promised vote. 5. The tape was delivered to MSzP headquarters. 6. MSzP decided to turn over the tape to police. 7. MSzP also decided to turn over the tape to the online journal hvg.hu [Is it proven or just likely?] There is a single person who was under police guard for three days and who now claims that 1. The tape was fake, i.e. that the money shown on the tape was not Fidesz… Read more »
An
Guest

Gusztáv Kőrös claims that he was told this was an educational video made by MSZP orders. Hah… since when educational videos are made on poor quality cell phone video recordings? It’s obvious that this was staged to look like unprofessional on purpose. But it wasn’t staged well enough, so it’s authenticity could be easily questioned. The question is, who staged it. Are people at MSzP really such idiots that if they want to fake evidence they do such a bad job of it? I seriously doubt that he is telling the truth after being in “police protection” for three days.

KranBery
Guest
I am gonna be a bit politically incorrect (perhaps even racist), but does anybody remember the Guy Ritchie flick Snatch in which Brad Pitt played a Roma trickster? The plot contained a stereotypical Roma camp whose members are very tricky and can double cross the smartest gangsters and get away with it. The point was that if the Romas learnt anything it was how to survive, move on, do not care, overplay they otherness when necessary and play the dumb/primitive guy when in fact they know better etc. What I am sure of is that the Baja Romas are smart to know where the power is. It is with Fidesz, undoubtedly, whose machinators can send onto the Romas the police, the prosecution or others and make the life of the Roma (and of the more wealthy ones especially who appeared in the video) more difficult in many ways. Thus whatever happened, they will support the Fidesz story line to the end and be loyal to the Fidesz puppet masters, because they know their own future is at stake (I mean a trumped up charge, perhaps even with some basis, is the norm for the police in poor Roma communities and… Read more »
Robert Fairhurst
Guest

And what will happen to people who share such videos on Facebook or YouTube?

tappanch
Guest

As of 10-30-2013, 47,763 new citizens has asked to be registered to vote in mail.
About 1/4 of them gave only an e-mail address “for notification” .

From November 1, new citizens can even register online.
If someone knows my name and my number given by the authorities, s/he
can register me to vote in e-mail. No address is required in the entire
process.

Fidesz know all the data. They can register every new citizen in e-mail,
giving an e-mail return address. They can also vote for them, I do not see
any check in the system.

http://www.valasztas.hu/hu/ovi/content/nevjegyzekbe_veteli_kerelem.pdf

On the other hand, if you are an economic migrant in Western Europe,
and a pre-2011 citizen, you have to stand in line at the embassy in order to
vote in 2014, you are not allowed to vote in mail.

tappanch
Guest

In the last four weeks, 24 thousand new citizens asked to be registered to vote.
Compare the current number to
http://www.valasztas.hu/hu/ovi/content/regstat/Statisztika_1002.pdf

Please notice, that even the “presumably” ethnic Hungarians of Moldova,
the “csángó”-s, whose ancestors were not Hungarian citizens of the pre-ww1 “Greater” Hungary can obtain new citizenship.

http://www.allampolgarsag.gov.hu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=152:gyik101111&catid=27:kerelmezok&Itemid=65

tappanch
Guest

In the last four weeks, 24 thousand new citizens asked to be registered to vote.
Compare the current number to
valasztas. hu/hu/ovi/content/regstat/Statisztika_1002.pdf

Please notice, that even the “presumably” ethnic Hungarians of Moldova,
the “csángó”-s, whose ancestors were not Hungarian citizens of the pre-ww1 “Greater” Hungary can obtain new citizenship.

http://www.allampolgarsag.gov.hu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=152:gyik101111&catid=27:kerelmezok&Itemid=65

tappanch
Guest

Let me summarize, correct me, if I am wrong.

The regular citizens can vote ONLY in person, even if they live abroad. They have two votes – first for the party list, second for the candidates in one of the 106 districts.

The citizens naturalized through the “simplified” process after January 1, 2011 can
vote in person, in mail or on the internet.

If they have been assigned a (genuine or fake) Hungarian address, they have two votes.
In other cases, they have one vote, for the party list.

Fidesz’s declared aim is to have 10% of the votes from these “simplified” citizens
(0.5 million versus 5.0 from regular voters in 2010.)

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

István Lovas, journalist of Magyar Nemzet in Bruxelles has written a letter to his colleagues of the foreign press in Budapest, you can read the original English version and the Hungarian translation on

http://atlatszo.blog.hu/2013/10/29/egyetek_szart_seggfejek_lovas_istvan_a_kulfoldi_tudositokna

PaulY
Guest
It seems 444.hu is pushing the video story hard, concentrating on MSZP, meanwhile on Origo.hu the news item (from afar implying the guilt of MSZP) about the latest development is the most shared article. Whatever the real scenario, it is MSZP (and HVG) which seem to suck big time. In a scandal nobody is interested in the truth as such, or what actually happened: only in the meta game. Which party seems to be winning over which. In this instance, MSZP is being defeated — that is the news, not what may or may not happened. Two more days and it will be proven (of course I don’t know but that is where this is headed, whoever set this in motion had to aim for the top) that Mesterhazy knew about the video, with the implication that he is “the culprit”, the “mastermind”. And then it’s game over for him (he will be vilified like Gyurcsány was after Öszöd). I am not sure the old guard will then let him continue — even if the old guard actually is not there anymore, as the leadership board of the party is full of new and noname Mesterhazy loyalists. After his departure,… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

Jobbik will erect a a sculpture for Horthy on the central Szabadsag square (US embassy is also there) on November 3rd.

The bust will be placed on the property belonging to the Calvinist church of Hegedus jr.

http://jobbik.hu/esemenyek/horthy-szobor-budapesten

tappanch
Guest

hvg.hu revealed their source to police yesterday (what about the journalists’ privilege not to give out their source?). The source was an MSzP propagandist, former chief editor of Hustler in Hungary – he resigned yesterday.

So MSzP gave to the journalists the tape. So what?

The question is whether Fidesz committed electoral fraud in Baja or not.
The YES answer is corroborated by several other sources.
This particular evidence could be false, or could be true, but declared false now.
It does NOT refute the other evidence!

Mannheimer
Guest

Tappanch:

You are right, but a scandal is never about the substance. It is about the power (clash) of the narratives. It is about watching a spectacle, to find out whose is more powerful. The scandal is the substance.

In addition, nobody in Hungary will think about professional privilege in such cases. HVG is a struggling weekly (at least the print version is losing a lot of money, it could be sold to Simicska/Nyerges/Nobilis you name it at any moment) whose reputation has been tarnished. It is currently owned by foreigners who shit in their pants when they hear the word police. I also think Gavra kept the info for a while, but he received too much heat, so he pushed the blame further. In a game of many players under pressure, it is pretty difficult to stick together if you are not Fidesz where all of these issues are deal with smartly (see the results of Fidesz’ other scandals, ie. none). MSZP has not prepared and it has no power to enforce silence, Fidesz does.

tappanch
Guest

Banner on the bridge:

http://hvg.hu/nagyitas/20131031_dhdhdhdhdh

“Viktor, I am also Hungarian, but not Fidesznik”

The police charged the protestors with “garázdaság”.

oneill
Guest
“see the results of Fidesz’ other scandals, ie. none” Pal Schmidt is still president then? If the crime is big enough to engage the wider public interest (ie the tabloids get on the bandwagon) *and* if the investigative journalism is conducted in the highest professional way possible even the higest postitons in the regime remains vulnerable to public opinion. HVG cocked up big time with this and independent of the regime’s oppression of the free media, they and the other independent media will take much more care next time before taking a story like this on face value. A few of the minor Fidesz mafia may escape justice because of this in the short run but this increased diligence and care is not a bad thing at all in the long run. The positive thing to take from the Baja debacle is that the Fidesz poodle would have lost in a free and independent vote. Separate from the complete and utter uslelessness of the democratic opposition, too often we (and I include myself) are overly negative about the regime and its dictator’s popularity amongst the iwder electorate. Would the regime employ such blackmail, threats, bribery, impersonation in order to win… Read more »
Tyrker
Guest
tappanch : MSzP also decided to turn over the tape to the online journal hvg.hu [Is it proven or just likely?] The very person who handed the recording over to the journalists (MSZP’s Balázs Déri) has said so, and the party has accepted his resignation. If it had not been the case, why would he admit to having done something he has not done? If only hvg.hu said they had received the tape from him – and it was not true -, he would likely have denied it. And given that the party headquarters are full of CCTV cameras, MSZP could easily prove that the meeting did not take place. The fact that they did accept Déri’s resignation suggests there’s evidence that it was indeed him who gave the tape to Gavra and his colleague at the MSZP headquarters. What if the people on the tape and/or the invisible “key witness” are intimidated by police, and the video was not a theatrical play, but it was real? There is no way for that footage to be real. It’s a hand-held video with zooming and all. Not something captured on a hidden camera. Whoever shot it was there in person for… Read more »
Johnny Boy
Guest
All lies. tappanch : There is a videotape made at an uncertain time showing that an alleged Fidesz agent gives money to people in return for their promised vote. Not uncertain time, the video was made one day AFTER the election. The tape was delivered to MSzP headquarters. Delivered by the creator, where an MSZP member personally received it. MSzP decided to turn over the tape to police. Lie. They watched it multiple times, then called in the HVG editor-in-chief who visited the MSZP HQ in PERSON and got the tape (admitted by both peers). MSZP then pretended to be shocked after HVG released the tape and mimicked a report to the police. 100% screenplay. MSzP also decided to turn over the tape to the online journal hvg.hu [Is it proven or just likely? See above. There is a single person who was under police guard for three days and who now claims that 1. The tape was fake, i.e. that the money shown on the tape was not Fidesz money, it was just a theatrical play to pretend. The tape is obviously fake, this is not a ‘claim’. The main actor in the scene, who arrives as a guest,… Read more »
wpDiscuz