Hungarians boo Prime Minister Orbán


This video says about itself:

Viktor Orban and Hungary’s faltering media oppositionThe Listening Post (Full)

16 October 2016

On The Listening Post this week: The main opposition newspaper folds in Hungary. We examine the government’s tightening grip on the press. Plus, journalism in a post-fact world.

Low sales vs Viktor Orban’s media crackdown

It’s the latest chapter in the story of a media landscape transformed. When Nepszabadsag, Hungary’s most influential opposition paper was suspended, owners cited low sales – but journalists say it is part of a wider media suppression.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Prime Minister Orbán booed at commemoration of Hungarian Uprising

Today, 17:24

In Budapest, thousands of people are on their feet to demonstrate against Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Orbán was jeered by opponents of his refugee policy during his speech at the commemoration of the Hungarian uprising of 1956 against the Stalinist government. …

Demonstrators shouted “Viktator” and “democracy” during Orbán’s speech there. The prime minister had to stop his speech several times because he could not be heard above the din.

Critics say that Orbán’s government weakens democratic institutions. The vice-president of the center-left party Together, Peter Juhasz, said Hungarians in 1956 revolted against the kind of policy that Orbán now stands for. …

Earlier this week, Orbán said that 1956 meant the beginning of the end of the Iron Curtain. By keeping migrants outside Hungary, he says, he now does the same as the demonstrators in 1956.

His critics think otherwise. They believe that the memory of the mass flight of Hungarians after the failed uprising should bring the government to a less restrictive policy on refugees.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Hungarian uprising with a nationalist tirade against immigrants on Sunday. The prime minister spoke at the official celebrations in front of the parliament to several thousand supporters of his right-wing Fidesz Party: here.

Advertisements

Hungarian government kills press freedom


27 June 1989: The Foreign ministers of Austria, Alois Mock (L) and Hungary, Gyula Horn (R) cut through the barbed wire that separated the two countries

From German weekly Der Spiegel in 2009:

When the Iron Curtain was torn open for the first time, on June 27, 1989, an image made its way around the world. It showed two men dressed in suits, using bolt cutters to nip holes in a barbed wire fence.

The men, then-Austrian Foreign Minister Alois Mock and his Hungarian counterpart Gyula Horn, had traveled to the Austrian-Hungarian border that day to send a signal that the division of postwar Europe was coming to an end. Shoulder-to-shoulder, wielding the bulky bolt cutters against the wire fence, they seemed to be conveying the good news that the fence was finally coming down.

In reality, as then-Hungarian Prime Minister Miklós Németh says today, speaking in a coffee shop close to his home on the north shore of Lake Balaton, the removal of the border fence had already been underway for several weeks at the time. When Foreign Minister Horn proposed the fence-cutting ceremony along the border, Németh replied: “Gyula, do it, but hurry up — there isn’t much barbed wire left.”

That was 1989, that was then.

And now

This video says about itself:

28 August 2015

Screaming in agony, a young migrant girl gets her hair tangled in barbed wire as her family scramble through mud seeking a better life in Europe.

Barely old enough to understand what is happening to her, the girl was forced to crawl under a razor-sharp fence to get across the border into Hungary.

But as she wriggles through the dirt, her hair becomes caught and she lets out a cry of pain.

A woman, believed to be her mother, who is carrying a baby in one arm, uses her other hand to untangle her and the family rush to safety.

By Markus Salzmann:

Hungary: Last newspaper critical of government shut down

21 October 2016

The October 8 shutdown of Népszabadság, a newspaper critical of the government, is a further step towards the complete abolition of press freedom and the establishment of authoritarian structures in Hungary. The right-wing conservative government of Viktor Orban has silenced the last major newspaper that did not represent the government’s own line.

Mediaworks AG, which published Népszabadság, officially justified the closure with the allegedly high financial losses of the daily paper. A company statement declared that all editorial activities had been suspended because the paper was unprofitable and had lost 74 percent of its circulation in the past 10 years, despite all attempts to make savings.

The suddenness of the closure and its political background indicates that the paper was put under pressure from the highest government circles. Members of the editorial team wrote of a “coup” on the Facebook page of the newspaper, to which they still had access.

Márton Gergely, deputy chief editor, told the Austrian Standard that the editorial office had been lured into an “almost perfect trap” due to a planned move of offices. The paper’s workers “had packed all their belongings for transport,” prior to the surprise decision to close down.

In the past, Népszabadság had reported extensively on the scandals and affairs of members and confidants of the Fidesz government. For example, it recently dealt with the allegations of corruption laid against the head of the central bank, György Matolcsy, who had been appointed to the post by the right-wing government.

Népszabadság, which means “Freedom of the people,” was Hungary’s most important daily newspaper. …

After the reintroduction of capitalism it made a rapid about turn. … In this period, Viktor Orban, head of government, emerged as the country’s “strong man.” His party, Fidesz, which had started out as a socially liberal, anti-communist youth organization, developed ever more openly into an authoritarian, right-wing conservative party with xenophobic and even fascist features.

To secure his rule, Orban systematically took over the media. At the end of 2010, immediately after its takeover of power, Fidesz brought the media under its control with a new law. Now, a state media council, consisting of the party faithful and confidants of Orban, exercises a wide-ranging control over newspapers, television and Internet publications. The media council has broad authoritarian powers, ranging from censorship, to determining content, and the imposition of ruinous fines.

In order to also fully control the private media, the government passed a law in 2014 introducing a so-called advertising tax for the media, which can be used to destroy specific critical media outlets. There are many indications that the government has also directly influenced the editorial line of Népszabadság.

Mediaworks, founded in 2014, sells more than 60 media products in Hungary. The company is controlled by the Austrian investment firm Vienna Capital Partners (VCP), whose owner is Heinrich Pecina, a business partner of the well-known Hungarian media mogul Zoltàn Speder.

Mediaworks recently acquired the Hungarian publishing house Pannon Lapok Társasága, whose acquisition had been prohibited up to now for fears of a monopoly position. Media experts are convinced that the government gave the go-ahead for the takeover in exchange for the closure of Népszabadság .

In a television interview, Fidesz Deputy President Szilárd Németh bluntly indicated that the closure was politically desirable. It was high time that the newspaper was closed, Németh said. The paper, he declared, continued to behave like its Communist predecessor Szabad Nép .

At the end of last week it was announced that another Hungarian daily newspaper, Nepzava, had also been sold. Although there have been no public statements, it is probable that the new owner is the Swiss group Marquard Media, which mainly publishes lifestyle magazines in Hungary, and is likely to discontinue the paper in its current form.

Now, virtually the entire media landscape is under the control of the government. A recent statement prepared by Democracy Reporting International shows that during the campaign for the country’s recent refugee referendum, which ultimately failed due to a large number of abstentions, the state broadcaster M1 supported the government’s line in 95 percent of its broadcasts.

Immediately after the announcement that Népszabadság was to close, thousands demonstrated in Budapest. The European Union also expressed criticism, but without drawing any practical consequences. “We are very concerned,” a spokesman for the EU Commission said, noting that the commission was observing the situation of press freedom in Hungary. The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, tweeted: “The sudden closure of Népszabadság is a frightening precedent. I stand in solidarity with the Hungarians protesting today.”

In reality, the EU largely agrees with the policy of the right-wing government in Hungary.

Eg, Orban’s Fidesz party can continue to be a member of the European Union Christian Democrat party, a major player within the European Union. The leader of the Dutch Christian Democrats has expressed solidarity with Orban’s anti-refugee xenophobia.

Twenty-five years after the introduction of capitalism in Eastern Europe, and the promise of freedom and democracy, the de facto abolition of democratic rights in these countries is not only tolerated, but also serves as a role model for similar attacks throughout Europe.

Hungarian regime censors newspaper for corruption revelations


Hungarians demonstrate against corruption by the Orban government

When media in Turkey expose corruption by the family of President Erdogan, the Erdogan regime reacts with police violence and censorship to these revelations (and to revelations about links between the Turkish government and ISIS terrorism).

When media expose the regime of the ‘Erdogan’ of Hungary, Viktor Orban, Mr Orban likewise reacts with censorship.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Critical Hungarian newspaper closed down after stories about corruption

8 October 2016, 20:25

The biggest left-political newspaper of Hungary is not published anymore. Journalists and opposition talk of a coup, and suspect that the regime of President Orban is behind it.

The owners of the newspaper (Nepszabadsag) say that financial losses forced them to take this decision, but that is strongly doubted. The end of publication follows on a number of critical articles about corruption.

Journalists say they were completely surprised by the closure. “Our first thought was about a coup. You will hear from us,” they wrote to readers on the Facebook page of the newspaper.

In recent years, many media have fallen into the hands of pro-Orban owners. On the sale of Nepszabadsag, with a circulation of 40,000, has been speculated for a long time.

Government corruption in Hungary: here.

‘Stop segregation of Roma schoolchildren in Hungary’


This video says about itself:

Roma living in fear in Hungary

30 January 2012

Roma people have reason to fear for their lives: seven adults and two children died in 49 attacks on Roma communities in Hungary between January 2008 and April 2011, according to the European Roma Rights Centre.

“The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) reported the four most serious incidents during the patrols to police. One involved a woman giving birth prematurely after being harassed by vigilantes using racially abusive slogans. No charges have yet been brought against the militiamen, though a Roma man was jailed for two years after a fight with the vigilantes; a further five Roma are awaiting trial over the same incident.”

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Segregating Roma pupils should end

Tuesday 20th September 2016

HUNGARY should abolish the “benevolent segregation” of Roma children in schools, experts on the protection of national minorities said yesterday.

A report to the Council of Europe said separate classes for Roma to “catch up” before continuing in mainstream education were ineffective and discriminatory.

It noted a 2015 ruling by the Kuria, Hungary’s supreme court, which “effectively declared segregation of Roma pupils legal in schools run by religious groups.”

The committee said it was “deeply concerned by this development running diametrically contrary to principles of integration and equal treatment.”

Experts also found that PM Viktor Orban’s government had “fuelled xenophobic and intolerant attitudes against refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants.”

Kick Hungarian regime out of European Union, Luxembourg says


This 2015 video is about racism in Hungary.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Kick Hungary out of EU, says minister from Luxembourg

Wednesday 14th September 2016

CRACKS widened in the European Union yesterday when Luxembourg’s foreign minister said Hungary should be suspended or expelled over its attitude to refugees.

Senior officials in other EU countries distanced themselves from Jean Asselborn’s suggestion, made in an interview with German daily Die Welt and which came days before 27 EU leaders meet in Bratislava, Slovakia to discuss the bloc’s future after Britain leaves.

“Anyone who, like Hungary, builds fences against refugees from war or who violates press freedom and judicial independence should be excluded temporarily, or if necessary forever, from the EU,” he said.

His Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjarto said Mr Asselborn was “a frivolous figure” and accused him of “working tirelessly to demolish European security and culture.”

The spat exposed the growing rift between the original European Economic Community states and newer EU members in eastern Europe.

Holocaust survivor’s daughter protests against Hungarian government


This video says about itself:

Dozens of Hungarian award recipients return orders to protest ‘racist’ journalist’s receipt of same

23 August 2016

Over 40 Hungarian public figures that have received the country’s third-highest decoration in the past have returned their orders in protest of the government awarding it to a controversial right-wing journalist who has been deemed racist by his critics.

Zsolt Bayer, 53, was among several Hungarians who were awarded the Order of Merit of the Knight’s Cross by President Janos Ader last Thursday. However, the decision to honor the controversial figure sparked a wave of protest among left-leaning recipients of the decoration who see him as racist and anti-Semite, and dozens decided to return their awards rather than be found in the same group as Bayer.

The prominent journalist, who writes columns for the pro-government Magyar Hirlap daily, as well as in his own blog, is notorious in Hungary for his strongly worded comments targeting various minorities, which are sometimes seen as crossing the line.

The newspaper was fined in 2013 over an anti-Roma piece in which Bayer called them “animals unfit for coexistence” … . Years later, the newspaper was fined again for publishing remarks in which Bayer claimed that all refugee boys over 14 are “potential” terrorists. Commenting on Bayer’s award, businessman Andras Polgar, one of those returning the order, said “The state feels it is appropriate to lift racist criminals onto a pedestal… it is impossible to tolerate this with a sober, decent conscience,” as cited by Hungarian Free Press.

András Heisler, leader of Hungary’s main Jewish community organization and another recipient returning his decoration, said Bayer “harbors burning anti-Gypsy sentiment” and that he “pollutes Hungary with ideas that are fit to destroy the nation.”

The headline of one of the articles criticizing the move read: “By mistake Zsolt Bayer received lovagkereszt (the cross of the knight) instead of horogkereszt (the swastika).”

The Hungarian government defended its decision, saying that Bayer had been awarded for his work protecting victims of communist oppression in Hungary.

… Mária Schmidt, who is the director of the Hungarian capital’s House of Terror Museum, said on her Facebook page: “The Knight’s Cross was received by the Christian crusader who does not allow us to lose our values, traditions, sensibilities, and common sense! I congratulate Zsolt Bayer on his Knight’s Cross!”

Bayer has close ties with the Hungarian government. He was among the 37 Hungarian students that founded the now-ruling Fidesz party back in 1988, and is a personal friend of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Both have made critical remarks about the European Union and the way it is handling the refugee crisis.

Translated from Belgian (right wing) daily Het Laatste Nieuws:

Daughter of Holocaust survivor gives back Hungarian award in protest

5/09/16 – 2:29

Katrina Lantos Swett has returned a prestigious award that she received for her work with minorities in Hungary after the country decided to award that same prize this year to writer and journalist Zsolt Bayer. He has written racist texts several times and his work is considered by critics to be anti-Semitic.

Lantos Swett is the daughter of former US congressman Tom Lantos. He was born in Hungary and survived the Holocaust, before he began a new life in the United States. He died in 2008 and was the only congressman in US history who had lived through the Holocaust.

His daughter received the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit in 2009, after she had founded the Tom Lantos Institute in Budapest, which focuses on the rights of minority groups in society.

Lantos Swett hopes the returning of the prize will make Hungary think again about rewarding Bayer, who, eg, has called the Roma community “animals” and says that all Muslims aged over 14 are “potential killers”. He has also written numerous articles that are anti-Semitic according to critics.

Holocaust Museum

The US Holocaust Museum in Washington has called on Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban not to award the prize to Bayer. Bayer, himself a member of Orban’s party, received the award for “outstanding journalistic activities”.

Hungarian government’s illegal anti-refugee policies


This video says about itself:

Hungary’s 100,000 Jews alarmed at racism

22 March 2013

Anti-semitism is being felt in Hungary almost 70 years after half a million Jews were killed in the country during the Holocaust.

Community leaders feel threatened following recent comments made by members of the right-wing Jobbik party, and as a football match last year saw hooligans shout slurs at Israeli players.

Despite measures to control racism, such as ordering the Hungarian national football team to play its World Cup qualifier against Romania on Friday night (March 22) behind closed doors, concerns are growing with reports of some Jews choosing to migrate to other European countries.

Al Jazeera’s Tim Friend reports from Budapest.

By Márta Pardavi in Hugary, on 31 August 2016:

How Hungary Systematically Violates European Norms On Refugee Protection

In 2015, Hungary became one of the main entry points to the European Union for migrants and refugees. The police registered 400,000 irregular migrants and more than 177,000 of these applied for asylum. With at most 4,000 people with international protection status living in Hungary and one of the lowest rates of immigrant populations in Europe (1.4%), most people were faced with an unknown phenomenon, one that had hardly featured in Hungarian media or on political agendas before.

Confronted with a variety of very uncomfortable domestic political issues and the challenges posed by the number of arrivals, the government suddenly elevated migration to the number 1 topic on the political agenda. Right after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in Paris in January 2015, it announced that migration posed a dangerous threat, from which Hungary and Europe must be protected. Moreover, it put the blame on “Brussels”, primarily the European Commission, for failing to keep refugees and migrants out of Europe.

In May 2015, the government launched a “National Consultation on Immigration and Terrorism”, in which 8 million Hungarian adults were asked to respond to a set of biased questions that portrayed migrants as abusers of European welfare systems and economic opportunities: ‘a new type of threat that we must stop in its tracks’. The consultation was accompanied by a nationwide billboard campaign, which featured xenophobic messages in Hungarian.

Over the summer, thousands of refugees arrived across the Serbian border each day, only to be met with a government-induced humanitarian crisis in Hungary. To everyone’s surprise, informal groups sprouted up instantly and hundreds of ordinary Hungarian citizens in towns all over the country spent their summer helping refugees. Thousands of Hungarians donated clothing, food and money to help where the state refused to do its part.

Later on, the legal and practical framework of refugee protection in Hungary was practically dismantled. The combined and intended effect of these steps was to deter and limit people who need international protection from accessing it in Hungary, by:

  • rejecting all asylum applications from people who had entered Hungary from Serbia, which was declared a safe third country, without a real inquiry into the reasons why Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans and others had to flee their countries,
  • introducing new and unfair procedural rules that result in genuine refugees being denied access to a proper asylum procedure and to the possibility of finding protection,
  • sealing the borders with Serbia and Croatia with razor-wire fences,
  • criminalising the crossing of the border fence and trying migrants in expedited criminal trials lacking many important due process guarantees,
  • reducing the Hungarian reception system’s capacity to offer shelter to asylum-seekers by closing the largest camp and instead opening smaller, temporary tent camps,
  • opening four small ‘transit zones’ on the southern border where people who wish to seek asylum in Hungary should apply and be registered, but not all would be let in the country.

Although the government is determined to keep migrants and refugees away from Hungary, wars and instability have not ended and people keep on coming via the Balkan route, though in lesser numbers than in 2015.

Since early spring, would-be asylum-seekers have to wait for long periods in front of two of the transit zones at the Serbian border to be allowed to enter and be registered as an asylum applicant in Hungary. At first, their number was in the dozens every day, but for many months now, it is hundreds of people waiting, many children and families among them. The Hungarian immigration office only lets in 30 people each day, giving priority to vulnerable families. The conditions are dire, because the Hungarian authorities provide only a water faucet and one food package each day. Despite the fact that the people wait on Hungarian land within arm’s reach of the authorities, it is UNHCR and NGOs and volunteer groups who struggle to meet all other needs: medical assistance, clothing, shelter, hot meals, information.

Since January 2016, about 252 persons have been granted protection status in Hungary (in 2015: 508). On 1 June 2016, however, state support for refugee integration was nearly eliminated, as all financial benefits were cut and access to state health care curbed. This leaves recognised refugees and persons with subsidiary protection (who dont qualify as refugees according to the Geneva Convention but who would face serious harm if they return to the country of origin) at the risk of homelessness and destitution 30 days after they are given permission to stay. It is now only NGOs that offer integration services specifically for refugees, the funding of which comes from the EU’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund. Essentially, the EU and UNHCR funds are what keep the limited integration services for refugees above water in Hungary.

In recent months, UNHCR, Human Rights Watch and Hungarian NGOs and volunteers have been documenting and reporting about frequent cases of severe ill-treatment of migrants at the border. The police have refused to thoroughly investigate these reports.

Moreover, since July 5, the police can push back migrants who are apprehended within 8 km inside Hungary of the border fence to the other side of it, without any substantive procedure. People are expected to join the many hundreds waiting at the transit zones for managed entry, amid degrading conditions.

Not surprisingly, most asylum-seekers abandon their asylum claims within a few days after having finally arrived at an open centre and travel on further west, via Austria. The Hungarian government acquiesces in this as becoming more of a destination country for refugees is exactly what it does not want.

With a national referendum on “mandatory migrant quotas” set for October 2, the hate campaign against migrants and the EU is at full trottle again. Those NGOs that speak out in favour of offering protection to refugees, for solidarity with other countries and for trying to find solutions through European cooperation are few and far between and they face strong opposition. In this precarious landscape, getting European institutions and civil society to show solidarity with the safekeepers of human rights and refugee protection would be all the more important.