The Hungarian government online

Partly because of the feud between Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his former friend and financial guru, Lajos Simicska, an entirely new media structure seems to be in the making. Lajos Simicska, a very rich businessman, was the linchpin of the so-called Fidesz media empire, at least since 2002, but even earlier he acquired a large portion of the public advertising surfaces that served Fidesz’s political purposes, especially at election times. This cozy relationship between the party and Simicska’s media and advertising empire is now crumbling. But this is only half the story.

Viktor Orbán, who is not exactly known as an internet guru, decided that Fidesz should have a larger presence online. This decision was quite independent from the Simicska affair. One of the government’s projects was to develop English-language news sites that can influence international public opinion. Perhaps the most successful site in this category is Hungary Today, a rather unfortunate name since it reminds everybody of the Russian propaganda news channel Russia Today. It is a publication of the “Friends of Hungary Foundation” that was established with massive government funding (between $15 and $20 million) in November 2012. The publication’s editor-in-chief is Szabolcs Nótin. Nótin started his career at Nézőpont Intézet, a think tank that supports the government party. After a short stint there as an analyst, he moved on to be “operative manager” of the Friends of Hungarian Foundation. After less than a year in this position he was named editor-in-chief of Hungary Today in June 2014. The site is professional and must cost a great deal of money. Obviously the Orbán government finds the investment worthwhile.

Much less transparent is a site called Daily News Hungary, which I discovered only a few days ago although it has been in existence since December 2013. Judging from the lack of comments, the site can’t have too many visitors, yet it covers politics, business, culture, society, and sports and is always up-to-date. That can’t be done without a professional staff.

In addition to foreign-language news sites, apparently the government would like to have a presence in the blogosphere. Some of the better-known Hungarian blogs have a large readership and are quite influential. But most of them are written by liberal-socialist-moderately conservative bloggers. I assume that by creating a number of blogs affiliated with hirado.hu, the government is trying to combat the influence of the existing blogs. Taking a quick look at these newly established blogs convinced me that every penny the government spends on this endeavor is a waste. The “government blogs” are apparently the brainchildren of Attila Várhegyi.

The Hungarian governments' blogger are different

The Hungarian government’s bloggers are different

Várhegyi used to be a very important person in and around Fidesz. In the 1990s he was mayor of Szolnok and a member of parliament. He also was in charge of the party’s finances. After Fidesz won the election in 1998 he became undersecretary in the Ministry of Culture, a position he had to leave in November 2001 when he was found guilty of a breach of fiduciary responsibility. His political career seemed to have evaporated overnight. In the last few years, however, he reappeared as a high official in MTVA (Médiaszolgáltatás-támogató és Vagyonkezelő Alap), the government organization where propaganda news is created and distributed to the various state media outlets.

The blogs appear under hirado.hu, the site of the official news that one can hear on state TV and radio. I rarely bother to even look at their news items, and I assume that I’m not the only one who finds propaganda disguised as news less than palatable. On these blogs one cannot comment, only read. By the way, unlike most bloggers, these people get paid.

One of the blogs, named “Látószög” (point of view), is written under the watchful eye of Mária Schmidt, director of the House of Terror and the controversial new Holocaust Museum, the House of Fates. She admits in her introductory remarks that one of the purposes of the blog is to acquaint readers with the work that goes on in the House of Terror. She published a somewhat abbreviated version of her lecture in praise of her idol, Viktor Orbán, on this blog. The other contributors, mostly historians, focus on such topics as victims of communism, prisoners of war, and the deportation of class enemies from Budapest in the 1950s.

Another blog, called “Mozgástér” (room to maneuver), deals with political science. The editor of the blog is Tamás Lánczi, president of the notorious Századvég Intézet that might be implicated in the corruption case that led to the banning of six Hungarians from the United States. The political scientists are much more active than the historians. The last post is by László György, who tries to convince his readers that “the Eastern opening is a necessity.”

Foreign affairs is covered by “Messzelátó“(far-sighted). The “chief blogger” there is Gergely Prőhle, who lost his job in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after the reorganization and is now undersecretary in the Ministry of Human Resources in charge of European affairs. The last post was written by Ferenc Kumin, consul-general in New York. It is about US-Israeli relations. Pröhle also wrote an obituary of Boris Nemtsov on March 1.

On “Urbánus” mayors write articles about the problems municipal leaders face.  And “Gazda” (farmer) deals with topics related to agriculture.

Cink.hu talked to Károly Szita, mayor of Kaposvár who is in charge of Urbánus. Szita admitted that they have no idea about the size of their readership.

So, here is another feeble attempt to boost the government’s waning popularity. I must say that the Orbán government is grasping at straws nowadays.

And talking about blogs and bloggers. Gábor G. Fodor, who caused so much trouble for the government with his careless remarks about Viktor Orbán’s political strategies, decided to be quiet for a while. After February 23 he wrote nothing on GFG.blog.hu. Today he was back. “There is a situation. We are after Veszprém and before Tapolca. The question is: what is more important? Governance or election?… For the next three years governance has priority.” Did the government resign itself to losing Tapolca? This is what it sounds like to me.

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
koeszmeod
Guest

Other Topic:
Please take a look and comment if you find holocaust cleansing in the following texts:
http://www.americanhungarianfederation.org/news_holocaust2015.htm
http://www.americanhungarianfederation.org/news_hungarianreview_koszorus_2014-03.html

petofi
Guest

I read no further than this part, “The 200,000 jews of Budapest…”

Tasman
Guest

Attila Várhegyi, not Vásárhelyi.

Várhegyi is an extremely important fidesznik operator who is always assumed to act on behalf of Orban. That’s the first thing to know about him and that gives his power.

Varhegyi’s main company is Prestige Media which employed Marton Nobilis (son of fidesz-oligarch/Strohmann Kristóf Nobilis) who became the head of the state advertising agency, the state-owned entity deciding where the state-owned entities will spend their advertising forints. We talk about some 50bn forints annually to be distributed strictly according to political considerations, ie. to support fidesznik media and steal much of it legally.

It was Varhegyi and Nobilis who engineered – successfully – the total fideszization of origo.hu, the popular internet side owned by Magyar Telekom (owned by Deutsche Telekom).

Varhegyi is basically a convicted felon who is also a very influential political fixer/bagman in the media world. Local municipalities have to contract with Varhegyi’s company for media and communication services, ie. to siphon off money to fidesz’ coffers.

Csoda' Peter
Guest

Dear Eva

You have been very generous in adding links from your blog to the government-sponsored blogs. It should improve their visibility on search-engines

I hope they will reciprocate your goodwill

Peter Karlsson
Guest

Átlátszó.hu, an investigative news site that focuses on corruption in Hungary, decided last week to ask MTVA to let their blog be shown on hirado.hu.
http://blog.atlatszo.hu/2015/02/atlatszo-blog-is-lesz-a-megujulo-kozmedia-oldalan/

Max
Guest

I should add that suddenly a Fidesz operative, András Tombor is eager to purchase a stake in the centrist right-wing mandiner.hu.
Tombor used to serve in the cabinet of László Kövér when the latter was supervising the secret services during the first Fidesz government.
Lázár apponted Tombor to supervise HUF 100 billion some two years ago as head of the state-owned Tokaj Development Co.

eugeneloretta
Guest

Whitewashing the Hungarian past? Good Lord forbid! Let us take a look at the following passage from the text posted by ‘americanhungarian federation’:

‘Parliamentary debate was vigorous, opposition parties were active, trade unions remained free, the press was lively – though overt criticism of Germany was taboo. Civil liberties endured. Escaping Poles and Allied war prisoners received shelter, and the Jews though economically and socially molested, were shielded from extermination. Finally, the exasperated Hitler occupied Hungary in mid-March 1944 and forced the replacement of the foot-dragging and peace-seeking conservative government with a more pro-German one though, still not within all-out Radical Right one.

The great majority of knowledgeable commentators and historians agree with Professor Rothschild that Nazi Germany occupied Hungary on March 19, 1944. That occupation was not a friendly gesture by an ally just strolling through Hungary, but ordered by an angry and anxious Hitler who intended to keep Hungary from extricating itself from the war, as Budapest had been attempting to do as it negotiated with Allied representatives.’

Miki
Guest

We can all see here a picture that shows how extricated Hungary was from the war before 1944.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hungary_in_World_War_II#mediaviewer/File:TeritorialGainsHungary1920-41.svg

erez
Guest

That’s how smart people do business.

Orban involves Siemens and Westinghouse in Paks 2, so that these giant corporations can go and persuade their respective governments about the wisdom of the totally unnecessary and corrupt Paks project instead of Orban. They will, so Paks 2 will be built.

http://nol.hu/belfold/amerikaiak-pakson-ujratervezik-a-bovitest-1519873

Beling
Guest

The US became more “pragmatic” lately, the diplomatic relationship “is undergoing a change”.

In other words Orban is winning in diplomacy, as usual. Goodfriend was recalled, Orban pushed the clueless Americans down.

Western governments are very easy to deal with, they always happy to give in. Orban and Putin know this well. The Socialists are similar, give them bits and pieces from shady deals and they will sell their own mother in a heartbeat.

Orban and Putin will continue to score big and remain firmly in power. They just love their adversaries.

http://hvg.hu/gazdasag/20150304_Heti_Valasz_beszallhat_az_USA_a_paksi_ato

Miki
Guest

Or you can see it the other way around. Because of some diplomatic pressure now western companies are involved in Paks2.
Without this pressure this probably wouldn’t have happened. Conclusion: again the west is winning!

It’s a misunderstanding that the West (USA and EU) would be really interested in Hungarian politics. They primary stand up for their economic interest. For the rest they try to give the population a hand in the battle against corruption and repression. They won’t do more than that, why would they? The Hungarians can vote, it’s still a democracy.

Orban pretends that it’s all the time a victory, but he’s continuously giving in. He is doing it now and he was doing it with RTL. He is clearly losing these battles.

tappanch
Guest

@Miki
“The Hungarians can vote, it’s still a democracy.”

Hungarian did vote under Communism too. Zimbabweans do vote under Mugabe. Are these examples of “democracy” ?

Miki
Guest

Last year they had a real change not to vote for Fidesz. You can’t compare that with Communism or Zimbabwe.

tappanch
Guest

The election laws were changed more than a dozen times before the election to enable Fidesz to get 67% majority with 26.7% of the popular vote.

Member

May I ask how long are you an active reader of this blog? I dnot mean to offend you but the “free elections” dogma were so many times discussed and refuted on this blog that is getting tiresome. There is a search button at the top right corner. You cannot call an election free, when a kubatov list is happening, you cannot call an election free when the information given to the masses is false (often fraudulent), you cannot call an election free when people getting paid or somehow threatened to vote one way. Yes, they are free to go to the vote and cast their vote in any way if they are ready to deal with the consequences. There were articles listed here that proved that there were addresses where hundreds of people were registered, there were first hand accounts posted about people not being able to vote, and so forth. ARe you part of these farce Fidesz calls “democracy” and “freedom”? If you are, please bugger off with your PR, and try it on the news portals greatly listed by Eva.

Miki
Guest

It’s clear you are all missing the point here. I don’t think the elections are fair and I also had to kick out someone from Fidesz with a name list who wanted to know who I would vote for.

I was reacting on the statement that Fidesz is winning in diplomacy. He is not and I wanted to point out that from the point of view from the US and EU the situation is not that extreme in Hungary. You may not like to read it but the West does cooperate with dubious countries out of their own interest. This doesn’t mean that in this case Orban is winning.

It’s quite disappointing that if you try to look things a bit from a different perspective your being accused of supporting Fidesz. I think it’s pretty obvious that if I emphasize that Orban is losing battles I am not a fan.

Beling
Guest
Miki, you are completely missing the grand narrative. And this is where Orban and Putin win. This is the discourse they entered and want to win. That’s the long term game. They don’t think in 4-year terms but in decades and centuries (just like China, Turkey, Iran etc. do). “The West”‘s most fundamental characteristics are that it follows and promotes democracy, human rights, rule of law (fairness, morality etc.). Without these, The West is just a bunch of rich countries, it is nothing. Hey, the entire EU was promoted as something more than just a common market, a new political community based on the above enlightment principles. Orban and Putin make it obvious to the entire world, day after day, that The West cannot and is anyway unwilling to live up to the expectations it itself is setting for other countries, or in other words that it preaches water and drinks wine all the time. Paks 2 is unlawful, unethical, unnecessary, corrupt, outrageous, a terrible business. In fact there are no arguments for it other than to create a giant, never-ending project via which untold hundreds even thousands of billions will be stolen. We established that. But now that’s all… Read more »
Miki
Guest

I agree with all of what you are saying. My point is that a too positive image is created of the west. They are nearly only looking at their own interest and these are nearly purely economical. Look at what the US has been doing all this time in Latin America and the Middle east and I am afraid you can say: yes it can be in the interest of the US if Hungary could be more corrupt and oligarchy controlled as long as the regime is willing to do business with the US.
Why else did they keep all these dictators in place?

petofi
Guest

I don’t know about Central America, but if it was in the US’s interest to spend a couple of trillion dollars in the war with Iraq, I’d like to be shown how this falls into ‘US’s interest’.

All this anti-Americanism is biting into the bitter apple of Russian disinformation.

Istvan
Guest

My answer to the question if it is in the interest of my nation the USA to allow Hungary to become even more of a corrupt oligarchy controlled by Russians – no it is not. I would also say most Americans who have money invested in transnational companies that have interests in Hungary or trade with Hungary would agree it is not in their interest to have massive corruption in Hungary.

There are a small number of investors here who no doubt generate some profits based on the Hungarian oligarchy and favors from Fidesz. Their perspective is favorable to both Orban and Fidesz, they are relatively rare investors however.

tappanch
Guest

@Miki

The right for referendum was taken away from the Hungarian voters!! A body filled with a super majority of Fidesz apparatchiks can decide whether a referendum is permitted or not.

How many referendums have been allowed since 2010?
Exactly 0.

Hungarians could not even vote about the cancellation of their Constitution in 2011!

Miki
Guest

In 2011 Fidesz had a 2/3 majority in the parliament won with elections that weren’t manipulated yet. In any country a 2/3 majority can modify the constitution.

What should the EU and US do against that?

tappanch
Guest

FYI: The Constitution was abolished in 2011, effective January 1, 2012.

First they made a 2/3 law cancelling the 3/4 requirement, how nice this is.

In several countries, there are unchangeable parts of the constitution (e.g. Germany)

Miki
Guest

I don’t really understand how you can cancel a 3/4 majority requirement with only a 2/3 majority and I don’t understand either how there can be unchangeable parts in any constitution either. It doesn’t matter if that part is ethical or not, it doesn’t sound right that any government creates laws that cannot be changed ever.

This is all beside the point though.

tappanch
Guest

Repeat: the constitution was ABOLISHED, not MODIFIED in 2011.

Sprit of '56
Guest

As far as Lajos Silica is concerned, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Let by goes be bygones. The first goal is to get rid of Viktor.

The Spirit
Guest

Of course, I intended Simicska instead of Silica. and bygones instead of “let by goes”. I missed my nap.

Guest

, but I haven’t read anything in that direction in the German media at all.Re Paks and the involvement of “Western” companies:
Afaik Siemens at least is no longer active in Nuclear technology so this sounds really strange.
They might however be cooperating in the “conventional” energy management but I haven’t read anything on that in the German media.

Totally OT:
Our German newspaper reports that Ukraine will continue to get gas from Russia …

petofi
Guest

One must remember one thing about Russia: help today is a noose around your neck tomorrow…

Member
Preliminary Synopsis of Hungary Law Roundtable (Mar 3, Concordia University, Montreal) (Video forthcoming) A very interesting and informative event. First Prof. Göllner, on the meaning of democracy and the rule of law. Then Prof. Bozóki on the Orbán régime’s corruption and systematic and growing dismantling of democracy and the rule of law in Hungary. Then Prof. Scheppele on why it has so far been difficult for the EU to do anything about the Orbán régime’s corruption and systematic and growing dismantling of democracy and the rule of law in Hungary — and two brilliant proposals for how the EU can make the Orbán régime answerable for its depredations. Discussion was lively, with some comic relief furnished first by one Tony Kez, VP of the Hungarian Canadian Chamber of Commerce, who suggested that what was important was not the Orbán régime’s corruption and systematic and growing dismantling of democracy and the rule of law in Hungary but the economic malfeasance of prior Hungarian governments. In their reply to Mr. Kez the panelists politely left unmentioned the Orbán régime’s current monumental economic malfeasance, merely reminding Mr. Kez that this particular Roundtable was not about economic malfeasance but about democracy and the rule… Read more »
Member

Tony Kez
comment image

Member

Lajos Olah
comment image

Member

Member

Thanks for this! Please do post the link when becomes available. What do you mean by “take-down notice for the Kez and Olah segments from the Orbán régime”?

Max
Guest

@ Stevan Harnad You say that “the second piece of comic relief was furnished by one Lajos Olah, Deputy State Secretary of the Hungarian Embassy in Ottawa”.

An embassy does not have a position like that. In case of Olah, it is Depuy Head of Mission.

By the way the Ambassador is Bálint Ódor who has been ‘exciled’ after the EU affairs state secretariat was dismantled in summer last year in the foreign ministry. Ódor was number 2. there. His father used to be ambassador to Berne.

Member

”How could you… ?”

And now, for those who have become incurably addicted fans of the distinguished diplomatic performance of Mr. Lajos Olah, the Hungary Embassy’s counterpart in Ottawa of the US Embassy’s Mr. André Goodfriend in Budapest here are a couple of Magyar Möbius stripets. It seems to me that now that Orban has fired all his experienced diplomatic corps as untrustworthy, he’s having to dig deeper and deeper into the reserves of those of his loyal football buddies left to troop his peacock colours planet-wide…
http://coub.com/view/59xow
http://coub.com/view/59xsm

spectator
Guest

He is really talented – in order to make a complete fool out of himself and the Hungarian government sending him there. Or anywhere, but really!

I wonder whom’s brother, lover, uncle or any other kind of relative he may be, or simply he really is the best to the job..?

Might be, as things looking…
Oh my!

Member

It goes on:
http://endresy.blogspot.hu/2015/03/bunkokkal-kulugyi-hirhitel-piacon.html

What happened here in Montreal is very interesting. Fidesz tried using its signature (and usually successful) tactics of stonewalling completely on matters of substance and attacking their critics as representatives of the evil opposition from which all bad things emanate.

It didn’t work. In fact it showed how Orban and Fidesz would have fared if their constituency had been the free and open world and not the blinkered and backward captive audience they control in Orbanistan.

Openness will triumph. Hungary is not surrounded by an impermeable membrane; it’s porous, thanks to the Wb and the global media — and the international Academy too…

HiBoM
Guest

What astonished me is that Hungary is being represented in Canada by people with such poor English. He is középfokú.

A truly cringe making performance….

trackback

[…] pontatlan információ és hibás feltételezés jelent meg a Hungarian Spectrum nevű blogban, Eva S. Balogh írásában. A Hungary Today a következő közleménnyel cáfolja a szerző […]

trackback

[…] with the Hungary Today news website and its publisher, the Friends of Hungary Foundation, in an entry on the blog entitled Hungarian Spectrum, authored by Eva S. […]

Webber
Guest

For those who read Hungarian – the following can be considered a response to the Statement by Hungary Today in the “Pingback” above (what is a “pingback”?)
http://atlatszo.hu/2014/06/27/ketszazmillio-forintot-juttatott-a-kormany-amerikai-civil-szervezeteknek-a-valasztasok-elott/

wpDiscuz