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Orator '89: Viktor Orbán commemorating Hungary's National Day on March 15

Hungary has always felt a little forgotten in the European mind, but its recent prominence in the world's media is something it could have done without. Probably no one would even be aware of Hungary holding the EU presidency, but for the hysteria that has erupted around its media law which also came into force in January, as Hungary assumed the presidency.

I'm not going to defend the media law but I am going to reflect on the hypocrisy, double standards and ignorance of those who have so shrilly attacked it and Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Outside Hungary, attacks on the media law in the EU have come principally from the Left, but they have gained bandwagon momentum in political circles and the press, and even the illegal download website The Pirate Bay, based in Sweden, shut down its services for 24 hours to protest against the law.

For one democracy to interfere in the internal affairs of another requires a great deal of justification. The media law may indeed be badly thought-out or poorly drafted, but poorly drafted and badly thought-out legislation passes through democratic legislative bodies every day. 

I haven't read the full text of the law (it's far too long), but then neither have its critics. Most of the condemnations came long before the law was translated into English, so critics like Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn and the New York Times who incorrectly claimed that Angela Merkel had "spoken out strongly" against the law are lining up with the Ayatollah Khomeini in attacking something they haven't read (unless they've been taking evening classes in Hungarian).

If someone in Hungary who didn't speak English, who'd never been to Britain, who had made no study of its culture or history were to start fulminating about the state control of the media in the UK (the sinister Ofcom scouring television channels for "offensive" material at the state's behest), we'd laugh or feel sorrow at such patent lunacy. Yet that's precisely the sort of absurd and uninformed criticism that Orbán and his party Fidesz have faced.

Every country has regulation of the media and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, contained in Hungary's media law that isn't found in other EU countries or the US. Lord Annan's sparkling line that the authorities should "censure but not censor" is the ideal a democracy should work towards, but how do you achieve that? Even in Britain with a long tradition of  unfettered news and opinion, we still have arguments about exactly where lines should be drawn (and who should be drawing them).

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Anonymous
December 13th, 2014
5:12 PM
As a Hungarian living in England, I agree with what he is saying. Although I donn't know all the facts, I do know that all I've heard about Orban (in Hungary) is that people have a better standard of living because of him. From England, however, all I hear is distorted views and how he should be put in jail. He has faults (as every other politician in the world) but at least he stands up to people and organisaions others wouldn't dare in a million years.

Csudi
February 13th, 2012
2:02 PM
Mr. Fischer is a nice manipulator. Except it doesn't work if you know the facts, or live here. Nice try.

fromhungary
January 22nd, 2012
10:01 PM
Thank you Mr.Fischer!!! Thank you for the truth!!! We are proud of you! Don't let manipulate yourself by the left-liberal media! Thank you for you that article! Every word which said the truth that can help us in nowdays!

makutsi
January 13th, 2012
1:01 PM
Well said, finally an opinion I agree with!

Enocelot
July 5th, 2011
6:07 PM
Good God Tufty- The man turned down IMF loans to take them from the last major Communist PLAYER ON EARTH.... since the Chinese won't hold him to human rights and democratic principles. Sqaure that with the man in the picture? I supported him in 1995 too. If you still support him today, you are supporting a one-man cult. Not a set of beliefs.

Erik the Reader
June 12th, 2011
11:06 AM
Certainly you don't kennedy us with this good article. :) I have enjoyed reading it like your books. I am now reading "Good to be God". As a Hungarian I am always marvelled that foreigners have very displaced view on what's good or bad for Hungary and tend to give credit to marginal characters like the philosopher Heller who even denied that anybody was beaten or shot in Hungary, while she is outraged that she has to give account for the public money spent by her "Thought Gang".

Tufty Banana
May 4th, 2011
10:05 AM
As a foreigner living in Hungary since 1993, I feel somewhat overjoyed that finally a voice from the West (well...sort of, given Mr. Fischer's ancestry) is rising above the clamour of the knee-jerk responses of the Western, somewhat hysterical, media. Here, in Hungary, I see the same thing on a daily basis: all foreign citizens somehow feel that they are obliged to blindly follow the 'left-wing' anti-Orbán propaganda that is dished out on all fronts. I'm British by birth, Scottish by blood, and yet I'm a member of Fidesz. I don't have the right to vote in Hungarian elections, not being a Hungarian citizen, but I still go out and assist in the campaign...simply because I have a sense of what's right and what's wrong. I remain completely baffled by the fact that almost every other foreigner I meet seems to exude nothing less than pure hatred for Orbán Viktor, so much so that I have, on occasion enquired as to the specific date when Viktor came round to that person's house in order to rape the family and kill the family pets with a rusty, blunt knife. The hatred that is shown for Orbán is amazingly personally felt, yet, cannot be considered as personal...Orbán might be a workaholic, but no-one alive would have the time to go round personally inciting hatred for themselves to the extent that we see in Hungary. As well as praising Mr. Fischer for raising his voice of reason above the tidal wave of mis-information that has flooded over Hungary from the West, we must, I feel, recognise the fact that the furore over the media law (as well as the outrage felt by certain parties regarding the new constitution) is nothing more and nothing less than a political attack. What is not germane to the issue here is the media law itself. This, and the terribly naive demonstrations (there's another planned for Saturday in cooperation with the firemen's demo') are merely the tools with which the ex-SZDSZ, the LMP, and the MSZP are furiously utilising to attack a government which was democratically elected. It matters not that the media law passed through parliament, and was approved by the EU (although that, in itself must surely cause a lump of consternation to rise in our throats), it's merely a method by which the vanquished relics of the old guard can sweeten their sour-grapes. And, given that human stupidity is limitless, it can be seen to work. Recently, I've had conversations with Hungarians who hate Fidesz, and especially Orbán Viktor where the last line of defence from them regarding the legitimacy of the government was: "It doesn't matter if they were democratically elected...a 2/3 majority just isn't democratic!!". Sadly, these people don't make for great debate partners, they're more of the broken-record camp. Welcome illumination for the West from Mr. Fischer. I was starting to despair of never being able to stomach reading a British media article again!

Adam12
May 4th, 2011
9:05 AM
Excellent article. It is so weird that quality press in the West (N.Y. Times, Spiegel, etc.) can be so easily manipulated by agents of the ex-socialists who infiltrated centers of influence around the world... It is legitimate to ask then: why have so many americans sacrified their lives and assets in the fight against communism for decades if their political and media leaders nowadays suddenly toot the same horn with the ex-socialists? Shame on the western media to pay patsies and cronies to/with the ex-henchmen... And more power to honest journalists like Tibor Fischer!

Saul
April 11th, 2011
4:04 PM
"Népszabadság was the paper that cheered the execution of Hungarians who wanted democracy and free speech, so for it to act as a champion of free speech is like someone from the SS running a workshop on human rights." The question is whether Mr Fischer, like Mr Orban, believes that is enough to curtail his opponent's right to express an opinion? "Népszabadság was the paper that cheered the execution of Hungarians who wanted democracy and free speech, so for it to act as a champion of free speech is like someone from the SS running a workshop on human rights." The question is whether Mr Fischer, like Mr Orban, believes that then is reason enough to curtail his opponent's right to express an opinion? Secondly, re the charges of Orban condoning anti-semitism, it would be interesting to hear Mr Fischer’s views on the comments made by Mr Orban’s very good friend, Lajos Bayer who after an article by Nick Cohen wrote this: "A stinking excrement called something like Cohen from somewhere in England writes that 'foul stench wafts' from Hungary. Cohen, and Cohn-Bendit, and Schiff. Népszava appears with the red figure of the man with the hammer and demands freedom of the press. Most people think that this is something new and that war like that didn't take place before. Nonsense. There is nothing new under the sun. Unfortunately, they were not all buried up to their necks in the forest of Orgovány." Orgovány, a small village on the Great Plains, was the place of massacres committed by the leaders of the Hungarian White Terror in 1919-1920. Bayer was obviously sorry that that not all the Jews had been killed in those days. As I said, a very close friend of Orban and one of the founding members of Fidesz, yet not one word of condemnation from either the Hungarian Prime-Minister or his party. That silence speaks volumnes of the cha racter of your hero, Mr Fischer and is just one reason why democrats, and not just in Hungary, fear the intentions of this man.

Andy
April 7th, 2011
8:04 AM
A very good article. One point is missing though. Orban won a two-third majority not only because of his charisma, but because the Hungarian people got fed up with 8 years of Socialist rule. Partly with the deterioration of the economy and the falling living standards, and particularly with the previous PM Gyurcsány, who is commonly referred to as Gyurcsány the Liar. Here's a CNN interview on his lies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HTKhm7rlKs

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