Domestic Politics

Dozens Of Recipients Return State Decoration As Controversial Journalist Receives Knight’s Cross

Dozens of previous recipients of the Order of the Knight’s Cross of Hungary have chosen to return their state decoration after a controversial journalist and writer linked to the country’s governing Fidesz party was presented the award by cabinet chief János Lázár on St. Stephen’s Day, 20 August.

To date, a total of 39 recipients, including several left-leaning public figures, have indicating that they are returning their Knight’s Cross in protest against the decision to bestow the major state award upon journalist Zsolt Bayer, a founding member of the country’s ruling Fidesz party and a personal friend of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who has, in the past, regularly sparked controversy with his strongly-worded and sometimes foul-mouthed pieces and became a prime target of equally harsh criticism from left-wing and liberal circles.

Budapest, 2009. március 29. Orbán Viktor, a Fidesz elnöke egy szelet tortát tesz Bayer Zsoltnak, a Magyar Hírlap publicistájának tányérjára a párt 21. születésnapi ünnepségén a Bibó István Kollégiumban MTI Fotó: Szigetváry Zsolt

Controversial: Mr. Bayer (L) pictured with Fidesz leader Viktor Orbán in 2009 (photo: MTI)

According to the Office of the Prime Minister, 53-year-old Mr. Bayer, who has been accused by critics of stirring up racism and anti-Semitism with his articles, published in the pro-government Magyar Hírlap newspaper and on his blog, received his honour after a proposal by the community for commemorating those who died in the Gulags.

“As a journalist, he gave a true and worthy account of prisoners and their lives in the Soviet labor camps as well as the Hungarian minority in Transylvania, making him a worthy receiver of the Knight’s Cross,” they wrote.

Some months ago, Magyar Hírlap was fined HUF 250 000 by the country’s media authority after it ascertained that an op-ed piece by Mr. Bayer had incited hatred by claiming that every refugee over the age of 14 was a “potential killer”.

However, prominent historian Mária Schmidt, who is the director of the Hungarian capital’s House of Terror Museum and former chief advisor to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (1998-2002), came out to protect Mr. Bayer, posting 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!”

via budapestbeacon.com and 444.hu
photo: MTI