Sabotage at the new Fidesz media company?

Just before the holidays Viktor Orbán gave an exclusive interview to Mediaworks, whose new owner is most likely his own alter-ego/chief stróman/front man, the pipefitter from Felcsút, Lőrinc Mészáros. Part of the Mediaworks stable is Pannon Lapok Társasága (PLT), which owns five regional papers: Fejér Megyei Hírlap, Napló (serving Veszprém County), Vas Népe, Zalai Hírlap, and Dunaújvárosi Hírlap. With the exception of the last paper, each of the regional dailies is printed in 35,000-45,000 copies. They are among the few Hungarian newspapers that actually make money.

National news for these papers comes from the center, which is in Veszprém. The regional offices are responsible for local news. Naturally, the exclusive interview with the prime minister was to be printed in all five PLT papers.

An eagle-eyed reader of Fejér Megyei Hírlap discovered some anti-government sentences in the interview. How embarrassing, especially on Viktor Orbán’s home turf, in Fejér County.

The journalists of 444.hu couldn’t quite believe their eyes when they received a photocopy of the page. But, yes, there they were: four sentences that obviously didn’t belong. Most likely not too many people discovered these sentences. One has to be a real admirer of Viktor Orbán to read every word of his not so sterling prose.

PLT announced that “unknown culprits falsified the interview with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán,” for which the company apologized. It directed readers to the original text, in the newspaper’s online edition.

Uniform government propaganda

What were the textual alterations? After the sentence “Hungary is a stable island in the seething western world because we asked the opinion of the people,” the culprit added, “although [the answer] didn’t interest us.” Orbán bragged about the raises nurses will receive in 2017 and 2018, which prompted our “editor” to add that “the number of corpses in the hospitals is also rising.” Orbán made the mistake of stating that “the allegation of corruption as a political instrument has become accepted,” to which the sentence “We also use it” was added. And finally, Orbán said that he “wished that many people should again find the original meaning of Christmas because, after all, we are expecting the birth of the Redeemer.” The text was changed to: “wished that many people should again find the pagan meaning of Christmas.”

The PLT spokesman announced that the company will take legal steps. As a first move the management and company lawyers began a ten-hour interrogation of five members of the editorial staff, at the end of which all five were fired. Two were from the Veszprém headquarters and three from Székesfehérvár. Apparently the management of PLT would have been satisfied with lesser punishments in some of the cases, but Péter Csermely, a high official in Mediaworks who used to be the editor-in-chief of Magyar Idők, was adamant.

It seems that the fired employees are not taking their dismissals lying down. The three people from Székesfehérvár argue that local editors are forbidden to touch any of the material that comes from the center, and this material came from Veszprém. They had nothing to do with it, they claim.

Of course, the whole case is intriguing. Soon after the discovery of the interview’s falsification all sorts of hypotheses began to circulate. Those who know about such things are certain that the changes had to be made in the very last minute, perhaps seconds before the final product went to press. The perpetrator, they hypothesize, had to be thoroughly familiar with the process of putting a newspaper to bed.

During the internal investigation it came to light that the computer that was used to alter the text belonged to the Veszprém office and that the person who used that particular computer was not in the office when the offense occurred. The problem for the investigators is that the computers in the different local offices are networked. They can be accessed from anywhere in the system. And so, although the Mediaworks management and company lawyers spent 10 hours interrogating the hapless editors, they still don’t have the foggiest idea who the culprit was. In fact, the company pretty well admitted as much when it filed a complaint with the police against an “unknown perpetrator.”

The second question is: What was the goal of the man or woman who played this particular trick? To make fun of Viktor Orbán? To express disgust with the whole regime?  Perhaps the person simply has a wicked sense of humor. Or, perhaps something else.

Of course, I don’t have an answer, but here’s something that might shed light on the matter. I discovered a local Veszprém online news site called Veszprém Kukac. Kukac means “worm” in Hungarian, but in our computer age the @ sign is called “kukac” by Hungarians. On this modest local website a certain Gabriella Bartuc wrote a lengthy “comment to the firing.” It turns out that Bartuc was one of ten journalists who two years ago were fired by F. Bernadett Németh, the editor-in-chief of Napló, one of the five people that Mediaworks just dismissed. Bartuc admits that she has no sympathy for Németh, who shortly after her arrival from Vas Népe began her career in Veszprém by firing her and nine of her colleagues. She deserved what she got, says Bartuc.

Apparently, Németh started off at Népszava but soon enough discovered that there was a dearth of “conservative” journalists and switched to the “right side.” She also discovered religion practically overnight and began to be a loyal supporter of the Orbán government. After she got rid of her “liberal” colleagues, she hired “people off the street” in addition to friends and relatives to replace the fired seasoned journalists. The quality of the paper quickly deteriorated. Gabriella Bartuc, at the end of her article, recalls that Bernadett Németh intimated in one of her articles that it was God’s will that she became the editor-in-chief of Napló. Bartuc ironically asks: “Did God withdraw the mandate?”

Could it be that someone on the staff of Napló in Veszprém wanted to embarrass a woman who called her colleagues useless no-goods who are worth nothing? I don’t know, but it’s possible. The official position of Mediaworks, however, is that the textual tampering was an act of sabotage committed by journalists who are not friends of the government.

January 1, 2017
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Minusio
Guest

Yes, Györgyi translated this to me. Hilarious!

A Happy New Year to you, Éva. Never give up on a good cause!

petofi
Guest

An aged, wise, Russian had once said to me: the corruption in Russia is of such a type (noting that the KGB had some years before united with the major mafia groups of the country) that, in time, it would be irresistable and infect the world.
Orban, Erdogan, and especially Trump, are prime examples of
this prediction.

Guest

This infection only bears fruit if it falls on fertile “soil” – so I’m still hoping that Western Europe will be spared. Maybe I think too much of my fellow countrmen (and women …) but I really believe it wouldn’t work here – at least not on the new generations after WW2!

Minusio
Guest

We are already past the second generation after WW2 – and it shows!

Alex Kuli
Guest

If the five victims of this fiasco are actual journalists, they should be happy to be free of this party propaganda machine.
The very notion of “government” and “opposition” media should have been trashed around 1990. In a perfect world, all newspapers should be hard on all politicians, with the “pro” and “anti” stuff left for the editorial pages. When a journalist’s top concern is “how can I serve the party” rather than “how can I serve the public,” the free press ceases to play its essential role in a democracy and becomes just another profit-seeking venture.
While political interference at Nepszava and Nepszabadsag was far less severe than the hands-on control at the Fidesz rags, it remains a problem, according to my colleagues who wrote for these papers. I was pleased to see that the MSZP took over Nepszava, simply because it saved the paper from disaster, but it should not be considered a desirable solution.

bimbi
Guest

These really rather gentle additions/changes to the original text are indeed pretty funny but one wonders what the “unknown perpetrator” is accused of. After all, there are so many falsehoods uttered by and disseminated on behalf of the government on a daily basis that the general public has no idea of what is “true” and what is false. Perhaps the charge is that the changes made Viktor Orbán look silly – but Europe knows that he doesn’t need any help in that, strutting as he does atop his east European midden of a Fidesz-KDNP government. Making the man look silly is perhaps the most heinous crime of all…

Member

re: the firing of the editors – you know, when someone managed to escape from Auschwitz, the Nazis grabbed 10 random people in the camp and starved them to death. Same thing with Soviet collectivization. If the peasants resisted being put into the kolkhoz, the Soviets lined them up and shot every 10th man. Repeat until successful or all the peasants are dead.

I realize people weren’t actually killed in this case, but the message is still the same, as a deterrent to those who remain: cause trouble to the system and innocent people will get hurt as a result.

aida
Guest

Funny story

Guest

Yes, the story is funny – but it’s also telling that this seems to be the only bit of worthy news in an endless sea of regurgitated Fidesz propaganda:

Hungary is doing better …

Yes Hungary has more hospital deaths, more poor people, more people out of work or in the public works, more alcoholics, more village idiots, more suicides etc than every other country – hail *****!

PS:.
The last paragraph was said by my wife over Xmas.

Bela Yorke
Guest

I am just trying to wish a happy New Year to all readers of HS, but not quite sure how to do it.
So Happy New Year to you All.

Istvan
Guest
I agree with both Bimbi and Wolfi basically the textual alterations were sort of two tailed dog like absurdist additions. The real news is that it became such a significant news story in Hungary. Which probably shows more about the current pathetic state of Hungarian journalism, than anything else. The world revolves around the great leader Orban, various corruption scandals involving his minions, and the opposition responding to various actions and pronouncements of the great leader. I have no doubt a good part of US journalism will evolve in this direction with our own great leader President Trump. Fox News is already there to be sure. But because news has become so fragmented here in the USA with online sources, X-FM radio of both the right and the left, major media corporations, Christian broadcasting networks, and the smaller public broadcasting system, and on and on, audience shares are relatively small. So it will be easy in the USA to escape great leader journalism, or enter it if one wants to. The truth is the vast majority of Americans today only digest small snippets of news between work intensity, social media, and the unlimited opportunities for entertainment. I am currently at… Read more »
Guest

Istvan, you nailed it!

From the talks we had over Xmas and New Year’s Eve with our neighbours it’s clear – they just don’t care about politics (any more …) because they believe they’re going to be screwed by whoever is in power!

So everybody’s just trying to get as much out of the system as possible – really sad …

Member

Eva, I just want to wish you a happy new year. Of course I wish the same to all readers of HS.

Ferenc
Guest

OT, but a nice start of the year (early morning yesterday 2017.Jan.01).
A specialist told the truth on M1 about the governemts taxreductions: http://www.mediaklikk.hu/video/ma-delelott-2017-01-01-i-adas/ (jn Hungarian, first 10 minutes).
Wondering if the man willl be again by M1 etc………

Found through http://444.hu/2017/01/01/rendkivuli-hireink-egy-szakerto-igazat-mondott-az-m1-en-a-kormany-adocsokkenteserol

Ferenc
Guest

PS: can someone enlight me about the reasoning behind those selective VAT-tax reductions (e.g.poultry and eggs, fresh milk, internet services, restaurants and “hospitality”).
Seems for poultry and eggs this has something to do with the ‘Avian influenza’ in Hungary (and Europe) this autumn and winter.

Guest

Your reasoning is much too complicated – it’s probably just the case that some Fideszniks own one or several large companies that make money selling these products.

Don’t even think that there is any kind of strategy behind these measures!
Remember the old saying:
A new law every day keeps sanity away …
That’s the way the Fidesz government operates.

Ferenc
Guest

I didn’t mean to reason anything, the poultry and eggs connection to avian influenza was said in the M1 interview. And, if true, even that to me seems farfetched!
Just very curious what official reasoning is given to these selective VAT-tax reductions. Must have been decided/agreed in the parliament, so there must have been said something about it.

Member

The media situation is worse than we thought !!

Orban can close down the last opposition paper “Nepszava” and Simicska’s “Magyar Nemzet” as well, whenever he wishes !!

“Ráadásul a Népszavát (és egyébként is a Simicska-féle Magyar Nemzetet is) a konkurens kiadó, a kormányközelbe került Mediaworks nyomdája készíti.”

http://hvg.hu/kkv/20170102_puch_laszlo_nepszava_xxi_szazad_kft

For English only speakers:

In October, not only did Orban purchase (using public money and his friend as proxy) most regional dailies, not only did he forcibly close down the largest daily Nepszabadsag, but he also obtained the printing house where Nepszava and Magyar Nemzet are printed !

Ferenc
Guest

That very printing house is that the original Nepszabadsag one?
Remember from the past (10-15 years ago) that many things (especially books) were printed outside of Hungary (esp.Slovakia), is that still the case?

aida
Guest

Whilst the entertainment season is still in full swing I recommend the video on Nepszava of MSZP politician later referred to as “Kunhalmi Punci” make a complete fool of herself on TV. I am sure I will be forgiven for not providing a translation of “Punci” but it is not difficult to find and in this case very apposite. It is a good laugh but unfortunately it demonstrates that there is no opposition in Hungary that can be taken seriously since it does not take itself seriously.

Member

Ms Kunhalimi must have been tipsy. It can happen to an opposition politician as well, although it is not professional to start a press conference in this state of mind.

aida
Guest

Her subsequent explanation for her curious performance is even more laughable. She clearly does not know the expression “if you want to get out of a hole, stop digging”.
Also she needs to be reminded that drunkenness is no vote winner.

Tyrker
Guest

Perhaps tipsy, perhaps stoned, perhaps simply suffering from a medical condition that causes one to laugh at inappropriate times. Either way she’s probably not fit for her position. She could join the Two-tailed Dog Party though.

Ferenc
Guest

The second thing (after rolling on the floor laughing) which sprung to my mind, when reading about this ‘hacked’ interview was: hey this is at a PLT-paper, which was bought end of september by Mediaworks, about one week later they (Mediaworks) ‘suspended’ Nepszabadsag, and then some 2-3 weeks later Mediaworks (incl.PLT) went into the hands of a pipefitter aka.’famous strawman’. And exactly to those paper(s) OV gives his Christmas interview, which then just before printing is hacked or sabotaged, with text alterations/additions not positive for OV/Fidesz. The whole thing making quite a fool of OV and his whole media empire. So the Empire received a strike back!

Where there serious management changes and/or people fired in PLT after the take-over?
As far as I know PLT, before being bought by Mediaworks, wasn’t unsupportive for OV/Fidesz (they got quite some ‘sponsering’ from the referendum campaign, although les than Mediaworks).

Here you can find the actual overview of regional papers (incl.PLT and Mediaworks, before and after take-over): http://index.hu/kultur/2016/11/21/megyei_lapok_videki_lappiac_atalakulasa/

Ferenc
Guest

Here an even more clear picture of Mediaworks (incl.PLT) and the other regional papers: http://444.hu/2017/01/03/a-mediaworks-bepuszilta-a-megyei-napilapok-tobbseget

Ferenc
Guest

Latest rumours about regional papers: VCP-Pecina (who ‘suspended’ Nepszabadsag) might buy the three Russmedia papers (published in North-East Hungary): http://444.hu/2017/01/04/ujabb-megyei-lapokra-mozdulhat-ra-a-fidesz
Note: both VCP and Russmedia are Austrian companies, so ‘clearly’ no Hungarian influence……. (except VCP’s last years media actions, and they got a lot €’s for MediaWorks….)

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