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Documentary on Merkel and Migration Crisis in Hungary Causes Uproar

Péter Cseresnyés 2019.09.09.

German state television ZDF has released a docudrama titled: “Hours of Decision – Angela Merkel and the refugees” making an attempt to reconstruct what happened on September 4, 2015, at the peak of the Hungarian migration crisis, with refugees waiting at the Keleti Railway Station before German Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to open the border. While many praised the film for showing the shocking events, others criticized it for only giving one side of the coin without presenting the Hungarian point of view. According to the Hungarian ambassador in Berlin, ZDF has crossed the line, as the film depicts the role of Hungary as “unrealistic and at times propagandist”.

On September 4th, 2015,  thousands of asylum seekers from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, stranded in Hungary, began walking to Germany through Austria. Germany decided to allow them entry.

On the fourth anniversary of the events – disputed to this day – ZDF presented the controversial docudrama featuring dramatized and fictional parts as re-enactments of actual events, directed by Chris Twian Twente.

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Liberal hvg.hu mentions that one of the biggest deficiencies of the documentary is that it has no Hungarian respondent. No Hungarian politician, expert, journalist, or even civilian helper appear talking about the events. “The creators gave up on showing the true complexity of the refugee crisis.”

The article also states that the documentary received a mixed reception from the German press while  “It is impossible and irresponsible to condense the truth of Merkel, Orbán and Zatareih into this 24 hours.” (Mohammad Zatareih is a Syrian refugee in the film)

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Pro-government Magyar Nemzet also questioned Christian Twente, the film’s director. In his response, Twente states that Viktor Orbán is not responsible alone for the situation, acknowledging that Hungary had to protect the EU’s external border. However, citing a number of experts, Twente thinks that the situation at the train station and the migrant procession was consciously heightened and used by Orbán in order to pursue his political goals.

The film has led to ambassador Péter Györkös writing a letter to Peter Frey, the editor-in-chief of the broadcaster.  In this Györkös heavily criticizes the film as it depicts the role of Hungary and PM Orbán unrealistic and at times propagandist, scratching the border of libel”

According to Györkös, the film gives the impression that the Keleti Railway Station was the starting point and source of the migration crisis, which is in complete contradiction with the geographical reality and the international and EU law, since the Keleti Railway Station is more than a thousand kilometers from the external border of the Schengen area. He states:

Hungary’s decision to comply with EU rules entailed significant financial, political and moral risks.”

He also points out that the illegal immigrants have made their way through five or six countries “in which their lives were not in danger anymore, so they couldn’t be considered refugees any longer.”

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The letter also suggests that if the German public or any private channel wants to know the Hungarian position, they should ask him. In his view, such situations can only be resolved with respect for each other and for the facts, and this film lacks both.

Later the ZDF responded by stating: The management is confident that the events were portrayed in the film the way they actually happened.

Featured photo by Zsolt Szigetváry/MTI