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Jun 16, 2020 - Zoltán Kovács

Duping the Financial Times into publishing fake news

In the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, voters may have faced one of the most unpleasant attempts to produce fake news by Hungary’s left-wing opposition. Of course they couldn’t fool anyone, except maybe the Financial Times, but it does show that there are people who would do anything to damage the Orbán government.

 

Back in May, when the country was still in the throes of slowing the pandemic, a woman named Athina Németh, claiming to be an ambulance worker, recorded a video of herself panic-stricken as she reported that she had cared for ten people who had been discharged from the hospital due to the pandemic, and nine of them soon died. The video was then posted to social media by a Socialist Party politician, Lajos Korózs.

Trouble is, as several sources soon revealed, Németh was not an ambulance worker, nor even a healthcare worker. She had previously advertised herself, reportedly fraudulently, as both a doctor and a physiotherapist offering in-home care for a daily fee.

This is much more than Athina Németh pretending to be someone else or trying to defame the government. She was apparently lying about her education and accepting money to provide healthcare services for which she was not qualified. That’s likely fraud and possibly endangering the lives of patients. Some simple fact-checking should have killed the story.

But the Financial Times fell for it. In May, as Hungary’s ATV reported, FT published an article under the headline, “Hungary’s Viktor Orban comes under fire for Coronavirus response.” It echoes the usual opposition rhetoric and mentions Karácsony Gergely, opposition mayor of Budapest, for “begging” the government to conduct tests more widely. And FT also included the dramatic – and patently false – story of Athina Németh.

This is what they call journalism today.