Hungarians will have to make a choice between East and West and between war and peace when they head to the polls on April 3, Péter Márki-Zay, the opposition alliance’s candidate for prime minister, said at a demonstration in Budapest on Sunday evening. The opposition protested at the headquarters of the public media, which they say is not only extremely pro-government, but also carries out “Putinist propaganda.”
Márki-Zay told demonstrators in front of the headquarters of MTVA that when Fidesz narrowly lost the election in 2002, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had drawn the conclusion that “there can’t be any press freedom because then he’d always lose”.
He said the government accused the opposition of wanting to send soldiers and weapons to Ukraine, insisting that it was Orbán who was “sending weapons to Ukraine” because he had joined other European Union leaders in approving the EU delivery of lethal aid to the country.
Márki-Zay said the government was “also lying about the boycott of the non-existent Paks 2 — which they themselves voted for — endangering caps on utility bills”.
“The role of government propaganda mustn’t be underestimated,” Márki-Zay said. “It’s a miracle that after 12 years of brainwashing we have a real chance of replacing the most corrupt government in our history.”
Péter Márki-Zay Péter. Photo by Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI
He insisted that the April 3 elections would not be free “because there are no free elections where people are being brainwashed for 12 years”. He said that “if the elections were free, then Fidesz wouldn’t make it into parliament, or, according to my estimates, would get no more than 20 percent of the vote”.
Over the past week, the opposition parties running together in the upcoming elections have appealed to several organizations, claiming Hungary’s state media has been inundated with Putin’s war propaganda.
Opposition green LMP MP Péter Ungár recently sent an open letter to Dániel Papp, the CEO of state media financing company MTVA, accusing the public media of broadcasting Russian propaganda about the war on Ukraine. He also asked the president of MTVA if he “received any money from the Kremlin to serve its geopolitical interests.” Ungár later also made a complaint to Hungary’s media regulator NMHH, saying that it was unacceptable that public media was trying to gloss over Russian aggression.
Opposition parties also turned to the election observation mission of OSCE in Hungary, saying the state media was spreading Putinist propaganda and the lie that the opposition would send troops to Ukraine.
In reaction to the opposition’s claims, the public media announced that it was appealing to NMHH’s Media Council and the National Election Committee over “political attacks by the opposition. A few days ago, the Media Council, composed exclusively of members connected to governing Fidesz, has already issued a statement regarding the debated matter. The Media Council said that accusing the public media of being pro-Russian can “mislead public opinion and stir up a public mood.”
Independent lawmaker Ákos Hadházy said it should be noted that the opposition’s PM candidate “has not once set foot in “MTVA’s headquarters.
Bernadett Szél, also an independent MP, said Fidesz had “done away with the free press” when it came to power in 2010.
Photo via Bernadett Szél’s Facebook page
Párbeszéd’s Tímea Szabó said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goals went beyond Ukraine, insisting that he wanted to “build a new Soviet Union and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is assisting this”.
László Varju, deputy leader of the Democratic Coalition, said “those in the building behind me” were “traitors” and “acting against the people”.
Koloman Brenner, deputy speaker of parliament for Jobbik, asked the people to “symbolically seize public media”.
LMP co-leader Máté Kanász-Nagy said that since February 24, debates on whether the upgrade of the Paks nuclear power plant should go ahead “from Russian credit and technology” were “no longer allowed”.
Momentum board leader Miklós Hajnal said Hungarian public media was “infiltrating” every household “in an attempt to poison Hungarians’ minds with Putin propaganda”.
Socialist Party MEP István Ujhelyi said Hungary’s path led to the European West, not to Moscow.
MTVA: Left-liberal parties violating press freedom
Hungary’s left-liberal parties are violating the principle of press freedom, Daniel Papp, the chief executive of Hungary’s public media provider MTVA, and Menyhért Dobos, the chief executive of public media operator Duna Médiaszolgáltató, said in a statement on Saturday.
They said Hungarian public media was on the receiving end of more and more political attacks from the left and that the left was spreading false information in an effort to “turn millions of Hungarian citizens against the channels they watch and listen to”. As it has done in the past, Hungary’s public media will continue to reject “smears and all attempts at political influencing”, the statement said.
Papp and Dobos said that public media did not serve politics but rather the nation and its citizens, and covered all developments, remarks, acts of aggression, stories of happiness, or grief happening in Hungary or elsewhere in the world.
They said MTVA was covering Russia’s aggression in Ukraine “regardless of how those demonstrating on Sunday try to lie about it”, as well as the situation of Ukrainians for whom public media was producing a week-long charity program.
Public media also covers developments in Iraq and Afghanistan, Brussels and Berlin the same way it covers the political positions of the left-wingers protesting right now and those of the government and the ruling parties, they said.
We cover it even if certain left-wing politicians don’t like it”
Papp and Dobos said that even though the left was trying to present the Sunday demonstration as a demonstration for the freedom of the press, “they are the ones violating the constitutionally and legally protected right to the freedom of expression”. “To them — as seen with their attempts at interference and use of physical violence — the freedom of the press only extends as far as their opinions are the ones getting covered, as far as it serves them,” the statement said.
Fidesz-KDNP: opposition adds “fuel to the fire”
Meanwhile, the ruling Fidesz-Christian Democrat alliance called on the left “not to add fuel to the fire”.
“Not a day goes by without the left inflaming an already difficult situation,” Christian Democrat MP Lőrinc Nacsa said in a video message. “They would send weapons and troops to the war, endanger our country’s energy supply and they endanger the security of Transcarpathia Hungarians with their remarks.”
“When the situation is this tense, it calls for calm, not yelling and aggression,” Nacsa said, calling on the left to “curb its irresponsible behavior”.
Featured photo via Tímea Szabó’s Facebook page