Sloppy Hungarian journalism misleads the public

It was at the beginning of January that Sándor Pintér, minister of the interior, first mentioned rather casually in a television interview that he might release some of the secret service documents related to the leak of Ferenc Gyurcsány’s speech to the MSZP parliamentary delegation after their electoral victory in 2006.

Regular readers of Hungarian Spectrum are only too familiar with what happened. The newly reelected prime minister rather irresponsibly made a speech in front of almost 300 people that was sprinkled with obscenities and that contained passages which, if taken out of context, could be very damaging. Of course, the speech was leaked. Fidesz, then in opposition, picked out the most damaging couple of sentences from the fairly long speech (almost 18,000 words) and passed them on to the president of Magyar Rádió. The rest is history. Football hooligans attacked Magyar Televízió and another round of riots, fueled by Viktor Orbán and other Fidesz politicians, occurred a month later on the fiftieth anniversary of the October Revolution of 1956. Ferenc Gyurcsány became damaged goods.

Ever since that time wild speculations have been circulating about who leaked the speech. The most authoritative person in this case, Ferenc Gyurcsány himself, said several times in the last couple of years that there is strong indirect evidence that points to three prominent MSZP members. However, he refuses to divulge the names because he is–as he stated tonight on ATV–only 97% sure that the three people whom he has in mind are actually the ones who turned against their party’s chairman and their prime minister.

And now comes the latest incarnation of this rather tired story. Naturally, it is being resurrected with the national election in mind. Viktor Orbán will never forget what happened to him in 2002 when most opinion polls showed Fidesz about 10% ahead of the opposition parties–and yet he lost. This time Fidesz  is pulling out all the stops, which includes calling attention again to the Gyurcsány speech from 2006. But this time with a twist. The couple of documents Pintér released are only part of the pertinent material. He has not released the most important final report that, according to Gyurcsány and Bajnai, concluded that the Hungarian secret service agents who investigated the case didn’t have a clue who leaked the tape of the speech and in exactly what way it ended up in Fidesz hands.

The two documents are available on the website of the renamed secret service agency that originally investigated the case. One is pretty straightforward and contains nothing new. The second one is a summary report (összefoglaló jelentés) not of the investigation of the leak but of Eduardo Rózsa-Flores who three years later, in 2009, died in Bolivia where he wanted to foment a revolution against the Bolivian government. The report concludes that Rózsa-Flores was a right-wing extremist who was an opponent of the MSZP-SZDSZ government. Although the report is for the most part simply a collection of generalities about Flores’s politics, it touches on the question of the leaked speech. During a conversation with an undercover agent Flores gave details of how he ended up receiving the tape of the prime minister’s speech which he then passed on to Fidesz politicians. It was Flores’s theory that the leak was organized with the knowledge and blessing of Ferenc Gyurcsány who by creating a scandal wanted to divert attention away from the country’s grave economic situation. In brief, what the agents learned from Flores was no more than speculation. A wacky hypothesis offered by someone who couldn’t possibly know the details of the leak.

So, let’s see how the Hungarian media handled the news, starting with Népszabadság. It is normally one of the more reliable newspapers in Hungary, but this time I was amazed at the sloppiness of Gy. Attila Fekete. The headline reads: “Őszöd: Here is the secret service report.” That is really misleading because the “meat” of the story, Gyurcsány’s alleged role in leaking his own speech, is not in the interim report on Őszöd but in the final report on Rózsa-Flores whose surveillance came to an end when he was brutally killed in a hotel room in Bolivia. A brief editorial in the paper is to my mind outrageous. If this is all true, says the editorial, “we just shudder. We can barely comprehend it.” On the other hand, “if the story is not true then we have every reason to feel totally lost in our own country.” At this point I’m the one who is totally lost. What does this mumble jumble mean? Finally, the editors call on Gyurcsány to divulge who leaked the speech. “He indicated several times that he knows what happened. He must tell.”

journalism

Moreover, the great journalists at Népszabadság seem to think that the investigation of Őszöd ended on July 27 2009 and that all the information contained in the final report on Flores has been kept secret for four and a half years. This “final report” was written because Rózsa Flores was killed in Bolivia and therefore his surveillance ended. Őszöd was an entirely different matter; we still haven’t seen the secret service’s final report on the leak which was written in December 2009. Viktor Orbán for very good reason didn’t want to release that document: it contains nothing about either the culprits responsible for the leak or about Gyurcsány’s alleged complicity.

It’s no wonder that Klára Dobrev, Ferenc Gyurcsány’s wife, had some harsh words for Népszabadság. The editors didn’t check the facts; they didn’t question; they presented lies as facts. Népszabadság, according to Klára Dobrev, even managed to outdo Magyar Nemzet. “My friends, I believe that we have one fewer independent newspaper.” She thinks that the shift is due to the paper’s change in ownership. Heinrich Pecina, an Austrian businessman, acquired a majority stake in the paper. In an interview with Márton Galambos and Irén Hermann of Forbes he expressed his admiration for Viktor Orbán’s leadership, without which, in his opinion, Hungary would have ended up like Greece.

All the other online sites pretty much repeated as fact Rózsa-Flores’s theory. As Zsófia Mihancsik pointed out, it was only Origo that gave an accurate description of the two documents released by Sándor Pintér. Origo called Flores’s claim “a bombastic theory.” But since most online sites copy from each other, one can be sure that all the wrong conclusions will be reached regardless of what anyone says. For example, Gordon Bajnai who saw all the reports, including the unpublished final one, announced on his own website that the two released documents try to lead the public to wrong conclusions. Moreover, he claims, the present government deleted information even from these less relevant documents that would reflect badly on Fidesz politicians. He considers this latest Fidesz trick a manipulation of the election which he “finds illegal and unacceptable.” Since then, Gyurcsány gave his side of the story. One thing is sure: only facts can prove someone innocent or guilty and in these documents there is nothing that would prove that Rózsa-Flores’s theory has any merit whatsoever.

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Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

It’s a dirty trick, but it’s a crafty one: not only does it brings attention back to 2006, but it has moreover the potential to sow discord beetween DK and MSZP – or at least to hint at the opposition’s unity being superficial. It is also rather classic, when facing a recent coalition of opponents, to point out that there were times when their forces were not joined, but competed.

If the opposition is truly united, they should be able to dodge the bullet easily… but are they? At least Bajnai seems to play by the rules.

andysomos
Guest

Any time my old neighbor Rosa Flores (his village is a ‘stones-throw’ from mine) is mentioned I know that someone is reheating eftover tidbits – i.e. mostly rotten food – intended for mass consumption.

Mr. Paul
Guest

I have to agree with the central point. The initial media reports were somewhat unprofessional. Many of them stated the claims in the report as proven fact as opposed to the claims of Rózsa Flores. I can personally say that ATV initial reporting also did this. I was watching one of their Híradó when this story broke and they said something like “Gyurcsany was involved in the leaking, new documents show”. I am paraphrasing but it was something like that. Rózsa Flores’s name was not mentioned in that first broadcast at all.

When a new story brokes everyone wants to be the one of the firsts to cover it. I am sure many of them didn’t read both reports fully and closely before publishing their articles or going to air. And of course Népszabadság was first and often they rely on each other for reporting.

Paul
Guest
Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10) : It’s a dirty trick, but it’s a crafty one: not only does it brings attention back to 2006, but it has moreover the potential to sow discord beetween DK and MSZP – or at least to hint at the opposition’s unity being superficial. It is also rather classic, when facing a recent coalition of opponents, to point out that there were times when their forces were not joined, but competed. If the opposition is truly united, they should be able to dodge the bullet easily… but are they? At least Bajnai seems to play by the rules. I think this analysis is correct. There’s no point in dirty tricks against Gy as far as Fidesz supporters are concerned – they already hate him. And his own supporters won’t be affected by it. So the only reason for this ‘revelation’ is to try to divide and destabilise the opposition. I must admit to being a little disappointed that this is the best they can come up with, though. This close to the election, I would have expected far more from the Fidesz propaganda machine. Contrary to what we sometimes read on here, I think this shows that… Read more »
IstenAldjaMegAMagyartEsszel
Guest
IstenAldjaMegAMagyartEsszel

There are two population groups:

1. The less smart ones – believing in Orban
2. The rather smart ones – not believing in Orban

Christopher Adam
Guest
Friday night, just as this story was breaking, Ferenc Gyurcsány was heading back to Budapest from a campaign event in rural Hungary and was giving me a telephone interview in the car. About 20 minutes into the interview, Bajnai called, he picked up his campaign manager’s cell phone, and told his ally that he would wrap up the interview with me in a couple of minutes and would then call him back. I imagine that they were set to discuss this story and coordinate how it would be managed. I recall Pinter’s comment in early January about how “it was time” to reveal documents on Őszöd and it was obvious that this would be timed to coincide with the election campaign. In the end, as Éva notes, all of this is just more smoke and mirrors. Releasing, during an election campaign, an interim report from a completely different file, which happens to touch in passing on the Őszöd speech, is indefensible on the part of the Interior Minister. I’m a bit surprised that Fidesz would feel the need to dig all of this up. If HVG’s sources are correct, Fidesz is preparing to release highly damaging information, similar in nature… Read more »
keszeg
Guest
Sloppy is a very kind word. This is more than sloppiness. It is an orchestrated campaign during the election campaign in which one of the last previously independent newspapers such as Népszabadsag willingly took part. I guess it is about their jobs too. These people have nowhere to go if sacked from Nepszabadsag. They will do everything which they think is expected from them. In addition, the journalists might have gotten some money for these articles or – which is a very common practice in the Hungarian media – might have gotten some in the past in order to write some articles or not write about something and the evidence (bank data) can be hold against them. (The direct payment for an article or payment for silence were actually a criminal office until the second half of the nineties, and then it was abolished, as it was so common, though it was never prosecuted). Obviously it is also about the impotency of the Left which has no own media at all. Fidesz bought up almost all available media and control the rest. And they have been working tirelessly on this for more than a decade. Remember that when Simicska was… Read more »
spectator
Guest

I don’t think either, that Orbán will sit on his laurels waiting things to happen, he want total control over the events as well.
Not to mention that he will not only win, he want tol deliver a devastating blow to destroy the “enemy” once and for all.
I think, they used these documents to manipulate the public again, to distract from the real issues and to heat up sentiments against Gyurcsány by “refreshing” 2006. Obvious though, that they sill couldn’t find a solid grip on him, and not becouse of lack of trying.

Member

Does anyone believes that any “new revelation” about Oszod will make any difference in the outcome of the elections coming up? I honestly doubt it it.
I think the yet independent media or the media in oppositions hold focus more on the lies and misleading tactics of Fidesz versus paying any attention to this old bone.
Why does Fidesz opposes to release the iii/iii files?
Why did Orban had to tell to the American diplomats “pay no attention to what I say to get elected”? What was he hiding?
How much the MOL deal cost so far?
WHat is truth behind MOL buying and selling government bonds?
How is the real unemployment data (without the Hungarians employed in other countries)?
Where is the whole document about the PAKS deal?
There are so many highly relevant questions to ask versus talking about who gave out a tape in 2006 to the press.

petofi
Guest

“So perhaps in contrast to what Paul suggested about Orbán thinking that the election is in the bag…”

Oh my, oh my, oh my–the great Felcsutian slides another curve over outside part of the plate.

All this hubbub, all this smoke and mirrors…is nothing more than to give people the sense that
Orban is ‘worried’ and pulling out all stops. Folks: read my lips–the Felcsutian is just producing the verisimilitude of a legitimate contest. It’s nothing of the sort: the results are already in. It’s just a matter of what the Felcsutian, sitting in his basement in his housecoat ——with his pills surrounding him on the ground–finally decides what sort of result he wants. ‘Should I produce a situation were Jobbik will be required to enter the government? Hmmm, it would serve those bloody jews right! Hehe..”

All this is worse than most people think: it’s not innuendo–it’s all a hoax.

This brings to mind what a Hungarian con-artist once told me:
‘A Hungarian? When he asks a question, he is already lying…”

andy - shucks !
Guest
This thematic: The Gyurcsany-Ösződ-leak routine is evidently a political effort to rake the mud. The above clearly evidenced by: — Attempting to put the blame on Gyurcsány for ‘LEAKING HIS VERY OWN speech in order to obfuscate the state of the economy at the time’, and by ‘selecting only two minor Hungarian Secret Service documents’ as opposed to the final Secret Service summary of the inquiry. — Attempting to add Eduardo Rosa Flores (a now deceased sad and sorry figure who had no connection to this stuff whatsoever) is simply a PATHETIC effort by pro-Fidesznik muck-rakers to add that ‘PLUS 1%’ of voters to their rolls. — It is added at the moment that the Ukranian Rebels are gaining the upper hand – a fact that Fidesz would rather not admit could happen. — The CLUMSY use of the once-leftist NÉPSZABADSÁG to give the appearance of cleanliness and even-handedness to the source of the leaked documents — The constant effort at diminsihing Gyurcsany who is in reality the principal and only effective (see his campaign speech) representative of the opposition “Összefogás” All the above add up to a clear effort by the Fidesz camp to utilize a smear-campaign. Evidently there… Read more »
tappanch
Guest
@Some1 “How much the MOL deal cost so far?” This is easy. 200 billion – yearly dividends (10 billion in 2013) at this moment. “How is the real unemployment data?” This is a tricky one. One has to look at various official data and calculate a little bit to get closer to the interesting numbers. The government obfuscates the truth. in thousands, December 2012; December 2013; % change +State employees: 658.9; 686.6; +4.2% +”Fostered” workers: 86.9; 178.5; +105.4% +Non-profits: 104.5; 99.6; -4.7% +Enterprises: 1791.7;1825.7; +1.9% -Workers abroad*: 91.4; 99.4; +8.8% =Workers in Hu: 1700.3; 1726.3; +1.5% =Total: 2642.0; 2790.4; +5.6% +self-employed* : 454.5; 439.2; [*October-December average, between 15 and 74 years old] This is the best I could come up with. To summarize, the “for profit” enterprises inside Hungary employed a maximum** of 26,000 or 1.5% people more than a year earlier. ** The workers abroad in December > the workers employed abroad in October-December
tappanch
Guest

In Ukraine,

the leader of a party that received 1.1% of the vote in 2012, Lyashko, submitted an urgent bill to ban the Communist Party and the Party of Regions.

THese two parties received 43.2% of the votes in the October 28, 2012 election.

http://zn.ua/POLITICS/v-rade-zaregistrirovan-proekt-postanovleniya-o-zaprete-kompartii-i-partii-regionov-139551_.html

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Has there been a public poll yet on what Hungarians consider the most important issues relevant to the upcoming election?

Kirsten
Guest

tappanch, in the national accounts the number of employed (including self-employed) is 4,1 million (which is not really high for a country of 10 million), +18,000 on the year, of which +34,500 was in the public sector (broadly including administration, defence, education, health care, probably also the forced workers). In some other sectors then were losses.

tappanch
Guest

@Kirsten,

I know about the headline number 4,015.2 thousand “foglalkoztatott” on the average in 2013 October-December.

On the other hand, also from other official numbers, I also know that the same number is about (see above):

2790.4 – 99.4 + 439.2= 3,130.2

I have no idea about the 885 thousand discrepancy.

They
cannot be self-employed,
cannot be employed by private, non-profit or for profit enterprises,
cannot be employed by the state,
cannot be “közmunkás”.

Who are they?

Kirsten
Guest

tappanch, what is the source of your data?

andy - Trade corridoor to the West
Guest
OT, re: Ukraine, Janukovich, Putin, Orbán. — The three, of the same ilk. Even if Putin loses on the short term, I cant see Putin letting Ukraine into the Western Sphere. He has just fabricated a potential sealed corridor via Hungary all the way to Austria and by extension to the West. He is going to hang in by hook and crook in some way or another to keeping Ukraine in his sphere of influence. His energy pipeline, his Russian comrades in the Ukraine and the partial close history and linguistic brotherhood of the past are all going to work in his favor. Also the EU’s preoccupation with its own economic and organizational problems and its extremely cumbersome administration and decision-making structure all favor the agility and maneuverability of the dictatorial methods of Putin and Orban. Even if i take the USA as a point of comparison, it would be unthinkable for the US to let for example Mexico into the hands of the Russian system. The US would disrupt any such deal by force if necessary. So, even with an intermediate delay, I sense that Putin will retain considerable influence over Ukraine, even at the cost of a bargain… Read more »
Peszt Lajos
Guest

Two important questions still remained.
1.) Did anybody planned the theft and transfer of records to FIDESZ, or just as a random opportunity has been used?
2.) Is there any proven relationship between the protesters and the FIDESZ politicians?
Responses are still not exist, just assumptions. There are known correlations, but the facts are still missing! In my personal oppinion, the main problem comes from the risky development of the complex political circumstances and not from the lack of facts!

tappanch
Guest
tappanch
Guest

The number of counted workers abroad can be found on page 6 of the first reference.

Kirsten
Guest

tappanch, I do not know for sure but the wages are calculated only for workers
“legalább 5 főt foglalkoztató vállalkozásoknál, a költségvetési intézményeknél és a megfigyelt nonprofit szervezeteknél”, I think this is a smaller sample, therefore the smaller number. In any case, it could be interesting to find out how they then estimate the number of people working in these very small firms (in addition to the self-employed) and their wage.

Paul
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :

Christopher Adam :
So perhaps in contrast to what Paul suggested about Orbán thinking that the election is in the bag, he has some doubts (perhaps based on internal polling) and he wants to make sure to “nuke” the opposition with everything that he has, so as to ensure a clear, majority victory.

Yes, I also have the feeling that for one reason or other he is less sure of himself than we think.

If he is it’s just caution or paranoia, it’s not based on reality.

My take on this is that he can’t behave any other way – if he was certain of a 99% vote, he’d still do all he could to attack the opposition, the dirtier and sneakier the better. That’s just how he is and all he knows.

And, to be fair, it’s a strategy that’s worked very well so far, so why change it?

tappanch
Guest

@Kirsten,

So there were 885,000 people employed by enterprises with 1 through 4 employees.
It is half of the total employees in larger enterprises.

Kirsten
Guest

At least this is what KSH suggests. In any case, to find out the “real unemployment” number as Some1 asked, would require a different survey, which would not only check whether people work the number of hours they wish (which could count as “partly unemployed”) but also whether (at least) the 2 million people in working age population (which I assume to be 20-65) who are apparently not in the active work force according to the statistics, are doing so deliberately.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest
Paul : Eva S. Balogh : Christopher Adam : So perhaps in contrast to what Paul suggested about Orbán thinking that the election is in the bag, he has some doubts (perhaps based on internal polling) and he wants to make sure to “nuke” the opposition with everything that he has, so as to ensure a clear, majority victory. Yes, I also have the feeling that for one reason or other he is less sure of himself than we think. If he is it’s just caution or paranoia, it’s not based on reality. My take on this is that he can’t behave any other way – if he was certain of a 99% vote, he’d still do all he could to attack the opposition, the dirtier and sneakier the better. That’s just how he is and all he knows. And, to be fair, it’s a strategy that’s worked very well so far, so why change it? Winning is one thing, ensuring a 2/3rds majority is another. However I’ll agree with Paul: why refrain from it anyway? There is no downside. It’s not like there were any kind of “righ of center” dissent within Fidez who could possibly be displeased by… Read more »
Member

@tappancs: “foster” employees. Are those the “forced labourers”?
Are you working on your guest article yet? ; )

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