“Ákos Kovács Affair”: Hungarian Government Cancels Telekom Contracts
Tamás Székely 2015.12.18.
The Hungarian government has instructed all of the ministries and their institutions to cancel their contracts with Magyar Telekom, the local unit of multinational giant Deutsche Telekom, government spokesman Zoltán Kovács said. He said the move would affect mobile internet subscriptions, but would not impact the partnership agreement between Telekom and the government.
Hungarian pop singer Ákos Kovács (photo: Viktor Juhász – akos.hu)
The spokesman said the move comes as a response to Magyar Telekom’s decision to cancel its sponsorship agreement with Hungarian pop star Ákos Kovács over comments he made last week about the role of women in society. “The role of women is not to make as much money as men,” the singer told television channel Echo. When asked what the role of women was, he said it was “belonging to someone, giving birth … being mothers”.
The spokesman said Magyar Telekom’s cancelling of Ákos Kovács’s sponsorship agreement goes against “both the spirit and the letter” of the constitution. “Such a move might be acceptable in Germany, but we believe it is unacceptable to discriminate against someone for their beliefs like this in Hungary.” House Speaker László Kövér also said last week that Hungarian women should consider giving birth the “highest form of self-fulfillment”. Explaining what he meant he said later that he personally regards having three sons as more important than his post as Speaker of Parliament.
However, both László Kövér’s and Ákos Kovács’s words have triggered harsh criticism and huge debate in Hungarian media and the opposition parties are also riding the waves of the scandal. The Socialists (MSZP) said the move signals an “advanced level of customised government”. Socialist leader József Tóbiás said that while the government overlooked a “collapsing” health care system, it put on its agenda such items as a “medieval” remark “by a citizen” degrading women into second-rate residents.
The left-wing Együtt (Together) party said that the government’s “petty revenge” was indicative of its sharing the pop singer’s “one-sided” views about women. They noted that Telekom was a privately owned company, which could sponsor anyone, while the government will terminate “public procurement contracts negotiated using taxpayers’ money”. The Liberal Party said the government’s “retaliation” was triggered by a “personal insult to the prime minister’s favourite singer and friend”. The government of a democratic country must not take revenge because a private company disagrees with the views of the house speaker or a pop star, and refuses to support or share their position
The Dialogue for Hungary party said that the prime minister “had better focus on the country’s problems rather than those of his favourite musician”. It called on the government to respect the decisions of private companies and spare efforts to “protect their minion who has elicited a public uproar”. The green LMP party said that the government was “again mixing up private and public interests”. Retaliating for “alleged or actual” offences on artists close to the government is not a government responsibility, spokesman József Gál said.