After an attack on the media, an assault on Energiaklub

Today I will report briefly on some new developments that may add to our understanding of the current political climate in Hungary.

Still about the media

To continue with the sad state of the media. The announcement that Népszava, the daily that proudly calls itself a “szociáldemokrata napilap,” was sold couldn’t have come at a worse time, only a few days after the demise of Népszabadság. The Swiss Marquard Media, which bought the paper, is no stranger to Hungary. It has been present in the Hungarian media market ever since the 1990s. Currently it owns Playboy, Runner’s World, Men’s Health, JOY, and InStyle. In Poland Marquard publishes Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, and Playboy. In addition, the company owns several magazines in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

Népszava will be an odd man out in Marquard’s portfolio, but we should keep in mind that in the 1990s Marquard owned Magyar Hírlap, which in those days was my very favorite Hungarian daily. At that time the editor-in-chief of Magyar Hírlap was the same Péter Németh who is heading Népszava’s editorial team today. He assures us that Jürg Marquard, whom he knows, would never in his life behave the way the private equity financier Heinrich Pecina has. Népszava had some very difficult times in the past, and one can only hope that the paper’s future will be ensured by this purchase. With the disappearance of Népszabadság, Népszava is now the only daily on the left. Mind you, when it comes to their attitudes toward the Orbán government, I see very little difference between the social democratic Népszava and the conservative Magyar Nemzet.

fedel-nelkul

Remaining with the topic of the media. The editorial board of Népszabadság made an absolutely brilliant move. The editorial team of the paper and regular outside contributors decided to write articles for the next issue of a weekly paper called Fedél Nélkül (Without Shelter), which is produced by homeless people and sold on Budapest street corners by about 1,600 of them. The journalists and contributors will take care of the added expenses, and all income from the sale of the papers will go to the licensed distributors of Fedél Nélkül.

There is a new enemy: The Energiaklub

Energiaklub is a well-established NGO concerned with environmental issues and alternative energy sources. It is a fierce opponent of building a new nuclear power plant in Paks. On September 29, 2016, the Baranya Megyei Kormányhivatal, a regional administrative arm of the government, accepted Paks II’s version of the environmental safety of the project. However, some key issues concerning the project are still questionable, and some of the government’s safety claims have no basis in fact. This is at least what Energiaklub and Greenpeace claim. These two organization will appeal the decision. Energiaklub’s experts “are convinced that Paks II will be a polluter” and that “it is dangerous and expensive.” In their opinion, “both in economic and social terms the expansion of nuclear energy is a dead end.”

On October 13 representatives of the National Tax and Customs Administration (NAV) appeared at the offices of Energiaklub. Without much ado or explanation they packed up all documents related to one of Energiaklub’s projects called “Answer to climate change, local climate adaptation.” The leadership of the organization is convinced that “this is the second act of the Norwegian affair” because this particular project is funded by Norway, Iceland, and Lichtenstein. Orsolya Fülöp, policy director of Energiaklub, believes that NAV’s unexpected visit is not so much against Energiaklub as against Norway.

I, as an outsider, see it differently. I see a connection between Energiaklub’s decision to appeal the verdict of the Baranya Megyei Kormányhivatal on the environmental safety of Paks II and NAV’s sudden interest in one of the organization’s projects. Moreover, the appeal was not the Energiaklub’s only “sin.” They have been calling attention to the corruption that surrounds the Paks II project. According to one of the organization’s energy experts, at least 10% of the projected €12 billion will end up in private pockets. My guess is that the Orbán government had enough of this pesky organization’s criticism of the prime minister’s pet project. Or perhaps they are planning to kill two birds with one stone.

Hungarians and freedom of the press

The Publicus Research Institute came out with a poll* conducted between October 11 and 13 which asked 1,000 people about their attitude toward freedom of the media and the suspension of the publication of Népszabadság. The results are surprising. Almost 90% of the Hungarians surveyed consider the existence of an independent press very important and 85% had heard about the suspension of Népszabadság. Two-thirds of the people think that Fidesz has a substantial influence on the media. Moreover, they said that since the collapse of the Kádár regime, government power over the press has never been stronger.

Another surprise is that 43% of the adult population read Népszabadság more or less regularly. Even 37% of Fidesz voters did so. Naturally, MSZP voters were the most faithful readers of the paper (57%), but Jobbik voters were not far behind (47%). Another interesting finding is that more readers were between the ages of 18 and 44 than over 45.

The great majority of the people are convinced that Népszabadság had to be silenced because it criticized the government and Fidesz politicians, or because Fidesz limits the freedom of the press in general, or because it was an opposition paper. Only 22% believe that the reason for the shuttering was financial. So, there is hope.

*The poll was taken for Vasárnapi Hírek. The detailed results can be found on the website of the Publicus Research Institute.

October 15, 2016
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webber
Guest
The reporters from Nepszabadsag are still getting their salaries, because they have not yet been fired. According to one report, their contracts stipulate that as long as they are being paid, they may not write articles for any other newspaper. The report also mentions that if they do write for any other newspaper, they will forfeit both their jobs (in this case, ongoing salaries) and the severance pay they would normally get for early termination of contract. If this is true, it’s clearly a tactic to keep these reporters to take their unpublished reports about Fidesz criminality and corruption to other papers. Concurrently, if some Nepszabadsag reporters write for Fedélnélkül (Hungary’s version of The Big Issue), their salary might stop coming and they could also be left without severance pay. Nepszava: I find it much more critical of government than Magyar Nemzet, but it has so little money that it engages in very, very little investigative reporting. If its new owner beefs it up, it should be able to pick up some of Nepszabadsag’s subscribers, and engage in more investigative reporting. Hopefully Nepszava will be able to hire a few of Nepszabadsag’s reporters and take up their unpublished reports. But… Read more »
webber
Guest

Too sleepy. I wrote “to keep these reporters to take” That should be “to keep these reporters from taking”

Ferenc
Guest

1.Nepszava to Marquard Media:
there don’t seem to be doubts about the good intentions of Marquard Media (Jürg Marquard), so just have to keep closely following this.
2.NAV controls Energiaklub:
is there somewhere a list of all NAV control since 2010, preferably with remarks concerning possible relations governmental issues?
As a side note: most news about nuclear plants I notice, is about problems and closings (temporary or permanent), wondering in which countries new nuclear plants are in the planning……
3.poll Nepszabadsag:
results show that Nepszabadsag has so much potential that business-wise closing is completely stupid, so everybody concerned keep following this case and digging till the truth is fully into the open.

webber
Guest

On nuclear power plants under construction, or planned for construction – look here:
http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/current-and-future-generation/plans-for-new-reactors-worldwide.aspx

Ferenc
Guest

thanks!!

jonas
Guest

The pressure by the government is unrelenting.

There was a burglary to the home of Maria Sandor (aka the black nurse) while she was at a campaign event.

“Only” computers, notes and the like were stolen.

http://sztarklikk.hu/kozelet/pentek-este-betortek-sandor-maria-otthonaba/298078

Member

An OT: Should have posted this link two days ago: http://www.cepaforum.org/Program /
… but extremely busy recently.
Hungary has sent in an unusually high-level government delegation.
Dull silence though in the .hu press (probably related to nol.hu closure) as well as in Washington DC http://cepaforum.org/Press (That is the usual procedure however CEPA normally would publish at least a résumé of the event on his original site: http://cepa.org/home) Did HU and PL buy CEPA?

http://washington.kormany.hu/1956-events-organized-by-the-embassy-of-hungary-in-washington-d-c

Guest

Re: Fedel Nekul and ‘brilliant move’

Wow. Looks a pretty creative move by Nepszabadsag to use Fedel Nekul. Perhaps if it takes hold the latter’s circulation might increase to benefit the paper and the journalists who write the articles. When circ increases audiences do as well. And when audiences increase the opportunity to influence and inform increases.

Observer
Guest

These events all point in the same direction: having unexpectedly lost the referendum, the shocked dictator has a fit of rage and orders his minions to tighten the screws.
The fascist light regime hardens, so more is to be expected.

Istvan
Guest
Eva I have to say I agree with you when you write “Mind you, when it comes to their attitudes toward the Orbán government, I see very little difference between the social democratic Népszava and the conservative Magyar Nemzet.” In an interesting way Magyar Nemzet since Lajos Simicska has fallen out with Orban has become the opposition newspaper of the out of favor oligarchs and venture capitalists who feel oppressed by Fidesz. But the paper is morally corrupt and its staff has “demonstrably manipulated and distorted the news to make the government look good and its opponents look bad” in the past as the Budapest Beacon has pointed out. I read Magyar Nemzet with the idea of abject falsification always being possible in every story. Here in Chicago I have met with some young very progressive Hungarians who have worked on projects related to the paper Fedél Nélkül that Eva notes in passing. They interned here with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and other organizations for several years now, here is a 2012 story about two of them http://www.chicagohomeless.org/cch-welcomes-organizing-interns-from-hungary/ Since then we have had numerous progressive young Hungarians come here to Chicago for social service internships, several have even… Read more »
webber
Guest

Transylvanian Hungarians I have met outside Hungary openly say they are disgusted by Orban and Fidesz, and that everything has gone wrong in Hungary, which was a beacon in their youth. Some of them compare Orban with Ceausescu. They all say they wouldn’t dream of moving to Hungary now. And they all say it with some bitterness, as if it hurt them personally.

Guest

Re: Orban and Ceausescu

You know to put VO alongside with Ceausescu is really extraordinary considering the latter’s destruction of Romania and how he met his end. I shudder to think of future events if Orban follows the road Ceauscecu took. For I remember vividly his terrible demise.

webber
Guest

Guest

That’s it webber. That’s it. Every ‘dog’ has his day, eh? Thank you for posting.

webber
Guest

P.S. Istvan, You are too kind. I am not so fierce. If I am asked what I think by anyone at all, even a stranger, I always say what I think, as I do here. I argue with Fideszniks whenever they say stupid things to me in person (two weeks ago in E. Hungary was the last- I was seething). But I do not take part in public events. And I am not writing here under my own name. That is a little shameful.
I have written elsewhere under my own name, and had rather unpleasant experiences because of it. Death threats, comments about my family, intimations about where I live – but nothing serious, really. Just hot air and rudeness. It was enough for me, though. So, you might call me a coward and I wouldn’t contradict you.

Istvan
Guest
Webber you are rationally cautious if anything not a coward. In Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I when Prince Hal finds the cowardly Falstaff pretending to be dead on the battlefield, the prince assumes he has been killed. After the prince leaves the stage, Falstaff rationalizes “The better part of Valour, is Discretion; in the which better part, I haue saued my life.” Let’s remember my interns here in Chicago know a Jobbik type blow hard is just that here, they are of no social weight. I am no coward and when faced with combat in the Army I did what was required of me which included being aggressive when necessary. But I can assure you that if I were in a situation where my position had been overrun like Falstaff I too would play dead for a short period of time. Marines are taught never ever to do this because you will be killed anyway. I don’t agree. Imperial Japanese army soldiers would feign death in order to obtain a closer vantage to kill the Americans. I’ve heard this was done often enough in the Pacific war by the Japanese to be considered offensive tactic rather than an individual making… Read more »
Guest

Re:’….where both Hungarian and Romanian were spoken. She told him the world is one of “beilleszkedés,” not “izolálása Kultura’

What a great retort! ‘Beilleszkedes’ really gets to the heart of ‘envelopment’. Love the sound. Really Magyar has some great words for great things. You know perhaps most of you are surrounded by Magyar all day. I used to be but no longer. Really glad though that it was always spoken to me and I retained an understanding of structure and grammar. Thankful for HS to be my ‘language’ iskola. Amazing how it helps me get little ‘lessons’. Thank you Prof and posters for bringing in a way Magyarorszag home to me.

Guest

Whilst I can’t complain – and don’t – it’s not been possible to understand the subtlety of Istvan’s anecdote, because I don’t ‘have’ Hungarian.

It might not even be possible to risk ‘lost in translation’ of the anecdote as some nuances fall through the cracks.

But I could commend – and do that most poster’s English is so good that the requirement to learn Hungarian is optional.

But for those who find the language so difficult and strange – spare a thought for our dilemma – and exclusion?

Google Translate is our poor antidote.

But, as I say, poor – and lost in nuance and subtlety.

Guest

London Calling!

I’m not so sure Népszabadság journalists contributing to Fedél Nélkül is a good idea.

Depending on the nature of articles written, the Fedél Nélkül sellers could be harassed mercilessly by the police.

Already the homeless are subjected to harassment on the streets – particularly in BP, that they leave themselves exposed to further – and more determined -harassment, by this move.

I hope not.

But Viktor DiktatOrban is nothing, if not vindictive.

Hajrá dictatország, hajrá dictatarok!

webber
Guest

That, indeed, would be in keeping with Fidesz. Not just Orban – Fidesz in general.
It could be the police, but they seemed to have hated the campaign against the homeless most of all. So, I could imagine thugs being sent out by Kubatov to beat homeless people who sell the paper.
If Fidesz were clever, they would simply purchase all copies every morning from homeless people – and those homeless people would be very happy. They need the money, and generally can’t sell many copies of that paper.
But Fidesz has proven itself to be brutal, not clever. Whenever there has been a choice between seduction and intimidation, they have gone for intimidation.

Guest

Re: ‘But Fidesz has proven itself to be brutal, not clever. Whenever there has been a choice between seduction and intimidation, they have gone for intimidation’

Certainly looks it. All the more for outside ‘democracy’ observers to pay attention to media matters in the ‘rotten’ state.

‘Let go’ journalists can help the cause by continually shining a light and using their pens so the ‘outside’ can see the cockroaches amidst the dirt.

Observer
Guest

The dictator’s psychological profile is well set out here (in Hungarian) :
http://seo-bdk.blogspot.hu/2016/10/a-paciens-neve-orban-viktor.html?m=1