The attack on the media is backfiring

The events of the last few days in Hungary have already aroused the interest of the foreign media as well as international organizations concerned with the media and civil society in general. János Lázár might insist that he put no pressure on the CEO of Origo Zrt. to remove Gergő Sáling, the editor-in-chief, but journalists unanimously told AFP that Sáling “was forced out” for political reasons after the site published a story about the extravagant travel expenses of János Lázár, Viktor Orbán’s chief-of-staff. Transparency International also considers the Origo affair “intimidation aimed at stifling the voice of civil society and democratic oversight.” And this is just the beginning. One can be sure that in the next few days important German- and English-language papers will have articles about the Hungarian government’s heavy-handed interference with the distribution of Norwegian Fund grants and the pressure it put on the management of Origo.

Meanwhile the scandal is growing, as scandals usually do. After the firing of the editor-in-chief, András Pethő, deputy editor-in-chief, resigned. He was the author of the article that incurred the wrath of János Lázár. Soon afterward Péter György, the founder of Origo, also resigned from the governing board. He is the head of the Film, Media and Cultural Studies Graduate Program at ELTE.  Deutsche Telekom naturally refuses to bear any responsibility for what happened at the subsidiary of its subsidiary, Magyar Telekom, while Origo Zrt. steadfastly denies any connection between the editor-in-chief’s firing and the article about Lázár’s trip. So does Lázár, who tries to portray himself as a man of honor who would never put political pressure on the media. In fact, according to 444.hu, political pressure on Origo has been constant over the last three-four years. Ever since Viktor Orbán became prime minister of Hungary.

There are always people who are convinced that the Hungarian public will swallow anything and everything this government does. They claim that Hungarians have difficulty with the concept of solidarity. In brief, nothing will ever change. I don’t agree with this assessment of the situation. I’m convinced that there will be a tipping point. We don’t know what will prompt a widespread response to an abusive and dictatorial authority. The tipping point can happen at any time and over any issue, but I would say that launching a broadside attack on the media is not a bright move on the part of the government.

Yesterday one may have been disappointed that only 1,000-1,200 people decided to protest the government’s actions against the media. But by today the opposition to the government looks much more impressive. More than sixty media outlets joined forces against the introduction of  taxes on advertisements. And, what is most important, not just left-of-center TV and radio stations, newspapers, and web sites got together but right-wing media as well: not just RTL Klub but also TV2 and HírTV. Among the radio stations not only Gazdasági Rádió but also Katolikus és Lánchíd Rádió. Among newspapers not only Népszabadság and Népszava but also Magyar Nemzet, Nemzeti Sport, and Metropol. Among online newspapers not only Hír24 but also Mandiner.hu.  And many, many others. Tomorrow the television stations will be dark for a while and newspapers and online newspapers will be blank. I think János Lázár and his boss made a big mistake. They managed to turn even friendly, often servile media against them.

solidarity
And the Orbán government is facing other problems at the moment. I will mention a few. Lately the European Court of Human Rights handed down several decisions that found the Hungarian government in violation of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Although the Orbán administration swears it will not abide by the court’s rulings, one has the feeling that they might be forced to change their minds. Then there is the Norwegian case. It looks as if the Norwegians are not about to be pushed around by Viktor Orbán and his chief-of-staff, János Lázár. Today the Hungarian ambassador to Oslo was called in by the Norwegian foreign ministry. After the conversation Géza Jeszenszky could only say that he hoped the misunderstanding would be cleared up soon.

And let’s not forget the infamous monument which, though still not erected, continues to provoke criticism. This monument, which was supposed to serve as a symbol of Hungary’s loss of sovereignty on March 19, 1944, has been strongly opposed by historians, the Jewish community, and the center-left political forces. Even American Jewish congressmen and senators got involved and wrote to a letter to Viktor Orbán asking him to sit down and discuss the issues surrounding the idea of the monument. Viktor Orbán just answered the American legislators and told them that the monument will stand regardless of what the whole world says, including the Hungarian public. According to Medián, more than 55% of the Hungarian population thinks that the monument falsifies the country’s history. Yet he goes ahead.

Finally, there is the question of Viktor Orbán’s strong objection to Jean-Claude Juncker for the post of president of the European Commission. More and more it looks as if the anti-Juncker forces will not prevail, especially since Angela Merkel is under strong pressure to stick with Juncker, the choice of the European People’s Party. In order for the British-Swedish-Dutch-Hungarian anti-Juncker forces to succeed they would have to gain the support of 55% of the member states and 65% of the population. Somehow I don’t think they will be able to convince that many heads of state to vote for another candidate.

Hungary is fighting battles on so many fronts that it might seem strategically suicidal to open up two more fronts: the Norwegian Fund and the media. There is, however, one possible explanation for the government’s aggressive behavior. The European Union right now is between two administrations and occupied with an internal struggle between the European Parliament and the European Council. Perhaps Orbán decided that under these circumstances Brussels would be too busy to care much about Hungarian domestic problems. Given the latest developments, however, it seems that Brussels is still functioning and is quite capable of acting against the Hungarian government if it does not abide by the rules. And the “domestic disturbances” are turning out to be a much bigger deal than Orbán and Lázár thought.

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kbeezyisviral
Guest

Lets hope the media blackout is a blessing in disguise to wake up the Hungarian population for a day or two.

tappanch
Guest

“Meanwhile the scandal is growing, as scandals usually do.”

In Hungary, scandals always fizzle out, at least since 2010.

On the other hand:

Our plumber voted for Fidesz, because they brought in “smaller, cheaper” Parliament.
(We know that cheaper it is not).

He told me today he is now disappointed that Lazar spent millions on luxury hotels and
would not vote for Fidesz.

Will he remember his own words in four years?

Jano
Guest

This is pure speculation from my part, but I wouldn’t exclude that this media chaos (especially the right wing outlets’ surprising anti government stance) might be a result of some internal power struggle within Fidesz. E.g. Simicska vs Lázár?

Glorious Times Ahead
Guest

Only an implosion is my hope.

So many indecent participants, as crowded into fidesz, will pile up lots of Lazar affairs, and the party will be history.

Member
Deutsche Telekom naturally refuses to bear any responsibility for what happened at the subsidiary of its subsidiary, Magyar Telekom, while Origo Zrt. steadfastly denies any connection between the editor-in-chief’s firing and the article about Lázár’s trip. So does Lázár, who tries to portray himself as a man of honor who would never put political pressure on the media. News, May 6th “Deutsche Telekom will launch mobile payment services in other markets including Slovakia and Hungary. The company is planning to launch mobile payment solution mid-May, while it has done testing with services like payment and ticketing in Hungary. It is planning a commercial launch this year in Hungary, said Deutsche Telekom.” http://www.telecomlead.com/mobile-vas/deutsche-telekom-offers-mywallet-mobile-payment-service-eur-40-bonus-41322-50529 News, May 22 “BUDAPEST–Hungary’s telecommunications regulator NMHH called a tender Thursday to sell various broadband spectrum licenses in a bid to boost competition and speed development in the telecoms market. Hungary plans to pocket a minimum of 104 billion forints ($468.7 million) from the sale of the concessions, the NMHH said. In September 2013, Hungary already extended the mobile frequency contracts of the three telecom providers active in Hungary until April 2022. The three mobile phone companies operating in Hungary are Norway’s Telenor ASA (TEL.OS), the U.K.’s Vodafone… Read more »
Bilderberg monsters
Guest
“One can be sure that in the next few days important German- and English-language papers will have articles about the Hungarian government…” OF COURSE one can be sure about that. After all the Bilderberg meeting was over JUST a few days ago, where the “important German and English-language papers” already received appropriate orders on what to publish. Look at the list of attendees and find the chief editors of many such publications. Gordon Bajnai was also at this meeting, why? And why does he deny what was exactly discussed if he has nothing to hide? In every decent country leftists and liberals protest against Bilderberg, protest against the part of the press the press cozying up and becoming henchmen of billionares and politicians. Decent people protest about the secrecy, the lies, the harassment and arrests of real Journalists https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGOPjx4yOGE . Those who want to cover what the powerful do not want covered. The Bilderberg-participant media is the definition of servile media. They have relevant information to the public that they refuse to report on. We need decent and rightful media that is interested in revealing all the lies and secrets of Bilderberg. One that is on the side of the… Read more »
NWO
Guest
Eva All of these years in the US has imbued you with a wonderful residual of optimism. All of the scandals hurt, but each is no more than a pin prick for FIDESZ’s position in Hungary. The fact is that the population is so cynical that none of these “scandals” will have any real cumulative impact on public opinion. The value of a free media has long ago been lost on the public. The overriding sense is that these “rich” (often foreign) businesses ought to pay. The economy remains weak, but it also feels a lot better that at any time since 2007 or so. Tourism is up in Hungary and Budapest feels like a better place. I know this is deceiving and does not reflect the reality of the country at large, but regardless this more positive feeling does matter. Orban has been empowered by the lack of resolve of foreign companies to actively leave the country when faced with discriminatory taxes, by the lack of resolve of EU institutions and national governments to confront his efforts to subvert democracy and by the ineptness of any real political opposition and most importantly by the pathetic passiveness of the Hungarian… Read more »
csermanek
Guest

It’s all part of the deal.

Origo is to be controlled by Fidesz.

Orbán never compromises and he hates those who enter into compromises, he thinks compromise is a betrayal. Of course, it is a betrayal of corporate social responsibility and other bullshit. But Germans apparently can always be counted on when it comes to compromise.

http://444.hu/2014/06/05/a-telekom-mar-tavaly-atengedte-az-origot-a-kormanynak/

johanna
Guest
If Lázár or Orbán want something, they will get it. That’s it. That’s what is unclear to Western observers, they just don’t understand what a long term vision is (e.g. to want to control Origo which intention has existed at Fidesz since at least 2000) and that there are people who will never compromise or willing to give up their goals. Fideszniks just wanted Origo and that’s it. And if they wanted it, they were gonna somehow control it sooner or later and they did. The Western culture is all about compromises, whereas Eastern leaders (such as those in Russia or fideszniks in Hungary) see compromises fundamentally as weaknesses, even immoral acts, because any compromise necessarily entails giving up something from (essentially betraying) your principles or dreams. This is just dishonorable, and is seen as a failure here. (The Hungarian left-wing behaves in this respect exactly like the Westerners, but as the leftists are in the process of getting extinct, the question answered itself: it is not very useful to be a clueless pushover). Luckily for Fidesz, however, just like Yahoo which voluntarily gave out private emails to the Chinese government which then used the emails to identify dissidents and… Read more »
Bogdan
Guest

Hello, this is my first comment on this Blog.

The 55% of the member states and 65% of the population,are needed by the Juncker camp,they the anti-Juncker,must prevent the pro-Juncker camp form get them.

Another thing Merkel,seems to have given up on trying to get an unanimity,but new she appears to trying to get as much countries behind Juncker as possible.

How will Orban react (response) to this ? Will he jump-ship and join the pro-Juncker

HiBoM
Guest

I don’t think these vague metaphysical speculations about “Westerners” etc are helpful or illuminating and rely on a raft of assertions and generalisations that have not been proven or even defined.

The 444.hu article linked by csermenek however is well worth reading and makes a great deal of sense.

buddy
Guest

@Jano “This is pure speculation from my part, but I wouldn’t exclude that this media chaos (especially the right wing outlets’ surprising anti government stance) might be a result of some internal power struggle within Fidesz. E.g. Simicska vs Lázár?”

I heard this very same sentiment yesterday from an insider source. Also, Orbán encourages this because they fight each other instead of him, and it weakens them individually as well.

tappanch
Guest

An article of 444.hu names the Deutsche Telekom’s liaison with the Orban government.

“This woman [Kerstin Günther] was sent here [as Chair of Magyar Telekom in April 2013] to smooth things with Orban in return for T’s leading position and revenue in Hungary.”

http://444.hu/2014/06/05/a-telekom-mar-tavaly-atengedte-az-origot-a-kormanynak/

Tyrker
Guest

Germany’s Deutsche Telekom is apparently playing a key role in liquidating free press in Hungary.

D7 Democrat
Guest

“I don’t think these vague metaphysical speculations about “Westerners” etc are helpful or illuminating and rely on a raft of assertions and generalisations that have not been proven or even defined”

HiBom

I think “Johanna” (she/he changes their handle on an hourly basis) has been actually quite racist here. Generalising a whole group of people’s morality or intelligence on the basis of their geographical location is downright racism and is a tool used often by Orban and his apologists on here.

HiBoM
Guest

The fundamental problem with the Hungarian press is that it cannot support itself without state advertising. And so the state is able to exert pressure by the threat of withdrawing or withholding it (this was no less true pre-2010.) And in the end, the owners of Origo have the choice of either selling up, caving in or continuing to lose epic amounts (which it has been doing steadily for years.) It appears they have chosen the middle course although I suspect they will ultimately sell.

Tyrker
Guest

Come to thinking about it, this might be just what the monument on Szabadság tér is trying to symbolise: Deutsche Telekom striking down on the freedom of the press in Hungary.

johanna
Guest
@D7 Democrat I was being provocative on purpose, but obviously I failed to get the messages through. Believe me, I am not normally one to simplify things, causality is always extremely complex. To quote Lacan: “I always speak the truth. Not the whole truth, because there’s no way to say it all.” I’m familiar with that, it is just impossible to really say “everything”. Every model is necessary a simplification, in order to make things, ideas easily digestible. What I wrote about is based on my extensive experience with Western people of influence, however. You may dismiss me as racist, but you do so at your own peril (sorry, my peril, because it is me who lives in an autocracy). If you reject the arguments as racist or whatever instead of trying to make efforts to understand my arguments, however simplified those are, and don’t assume for the sake of argument that those my reflect reality, you will never understand Fidesz and will always wonder how can it be that Orban always got what he wanted? How can it be that while major, sometimes hundred years old parties from the UK, to France to Spain lost half of their votes,… Read more »
d1 d2 d3 d4 d5 d6 ...
Guest
d1 d2 d3 d4 d5 d6 ...

it is getting thick for hungarians.
kiev is approaching felcsut.
lies have not saved anybody from the anger of the people.
remember the golden boys, milosevich and yanukovich.

D2
Guest

johanna — have you and others read the moldova, konrad, jokai eye opening books on Hungary?

Hungary is not following logical normal models.

Our closest relatives are the palestinians. Also full of good decent intelligent people with a terrible end result. Our hamas/jobbik/fidesz are our enemies, but we are too sentimental to end their rule.

Or study iraq, iran, burma, mongolia, n. korea. We have got a few close relatives in them, too.

tappanch
Guest

@johanna
“people actually went and voted for Fidesz”

Let us recall the numbers.

On April 6, 2014, the number of eligible voters with Hungarian address was at 8,019,000 in one official, explicit count or 8,048,000 in another, implicit count.

This number includes 80,000+ voters who received Hungarian addresses after January 01, 2014.

Party list votes were cast by 61.10% of the 8,019,000, i.e. exactly 4,899,391 people

Fidesz: 26.71% (cf 33.69% in 2010) or 25.97% without counting 80,000 ready-to-vote people.

Democratic Opposition Alliance: 16.08%
Jobbik: 12.69%
LMP: 3.36%

All other parties: 2.26%

D7 Democrat
Guest

I heard a (possibly) apocryphal story about Orban in his college days which can be transplanted to the present day. One of his classmates hurt his ego one day, so our fearless leader decided to teach him a lesson.. Well, Orban and five of his mates. They jumped on their victim, threw a few punches and kicks in, just to let him know who he had insulted. Orban’s back-up started walking away, knowing the bullied guy had got the message and basically to get out of the way before a teacher came along and punished the bullies.

Orban, although the job had been done, simply couldn’t walk away; his hatred and most of all, his inferiority complex wouldn’t let him. So he went back to kick the almost unconscious victim once more in the head. Just in time for the teacher to see what was happening….

Orban hasn’t changed. His biggest enemy is Viktor Orban.

Member

D2
June 5, 2014 at 7:24 am

Our closest relatives are the palestinians. Also full of good decent intelligent people with a terrible end result. Our hamas/jobbik/fidesz are our enemies, but we are too sentimental to end their rule.

Or study iraq, iran, burma, mongolia, n. korea. We have got a few close relatives in them, too.

Oh my… You are not one of those who claim that the natives of America are also Hungarians?
WHo cares who are the latest links in the DNA chain of events? How far are you going back? How about he monkeys, and the sea creatures? On a certain way D2 you are connected to Vona, like it or not! I also like to point to the fact that there were more jews were migrating with the Hungarians than palestinians. You do the DNA math there to see who get there higher.
I find these theorizing so silly.

Jano
Guest
johanna
Guest
@ tappanch You keep deluding yourself. Please face the sad reality. Those who decided not to cast their votes even though they could have, decided to accept the outcome, in a way they also voted. In the US, the participation ratio is not even mentioned by the media, nobody cares. MSZP could have brought their voters to the booths, but they did not, so those voters might as well not exist, which is probably the reality. Though as Szigetvári just mentioned MSZP actually wanted to be the Peyer party. Anyway, it was in a different era, not relevant any more. In April Fidesz got 43.5% of the votes cast for party lists, in the EU elections over 51%. In both cases Jobbk was the second biggest individual party with 20 and 15 per cents, resp. Nobody even got close to Fidesz. Fidesz indeed set up a very distorted system, including the Transsylvanian votes, many of which could have been forged, but the issue is the majority wanted Fidesz to rule them and not the opposition. If and when the opposition can engineer a similar victory, it will get to form the government, until then, Fidesz is here to stay. There… Read more »
Guest

@johanna:

“There is no way around it, those who voted wanted Fidesz.”

If you insert “a majority of …” then your statement is true – still, you’re probably right that it will be difficult to oust Fidesz.

@all:

Has anybody seen a kind of calculation or even simulation what kind of “voter swing” would be necessary for Fidesz to lose an election under the new system?

Obviously if because of economic problems e g one third of the Fidesz voters left for Jobbik and one third for a united left party list the Hungarian parliament would look totally different – but where is the threshold?

I remember from our last elections in Germany that some unforeseen event can decide an election – like in Baden Württemberg (aka Schwab country) where after the Fukushima incident our Greens got so strong that they could form a coalition with the Social Democrats – bringing an era of more than 50 years of a Christian Democrat government to a sudden death …

Guest

PS:

So now we have a Green prime minister in Stuttgart – the first in all of Germany (maybe all of Europe?) – the signs were there before: All our Schwab university towns have Green mayors: Heidelberg, Freiburg, Konstanz, Tübingen – and last not least even Stuttgart, the country capital.

That came as a real shock to our “Christian” conservatives who had always been as self assured as the Fidesz henchmen …
So you should never give up hope!

TU1
Guest

I am beginning to love even those obnoxious CDU politicians. Greens are fine, too.
The lucky Germans got on the right path.
Their leaders are really decent in comparison to all Hungarian ones.
I have heard Willy Brandt, too, personally in Tuebingen around 1972.
That was a magical moment.

tappanch
Guest

Schiffer of LMP and Karacsony of PM wrote letters to the management of Deutsche Telekom, independently of each other today.

Karacsony:
http://www.egyutt2014.hu/az_egyutt_2014-rol_hirek/nyilt_level_a_deutsche_telekom_vezerigazgatojahoz.html

Schiffer:
https://www.facebook.com/lehetmas/posts/10152441798872013

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