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Mar 23, 2021 - Zoltán Kovács

Entrenched bias at New Statesman misses key facts on Hungary and OLAF

What’s particularly conspicuous in this latest article is the blatant bias in the reporting.

In an article  entitled “How Hungary’s elite made a fortune from the EU” and published earlier today, the editors at New Statesman merely regurgitate portions of the international, anti-Hungary criticism that — for more than a decade now — has been thrown at the Orbán Government. If it’s not about allegations of cracking down on freedoms or supposedly resurgent anti-Semitism, then it’s about corruption.

What’s particularly conspicuous in this latest article is the blatant bias in the reporting.

The New Statesman relies almost exclusively on two sources: József Péter Martin, the executive director of Soros-funded “watchdog” and long-time Orbán-critic Transparency International Hungary, and Zsuzsanna Szelényi, a former MP from a liberal opposition party and also a staunch critic of the government. What journalist worth his salt would rely on only these sources?

Similarly, while the editors at New Statesman seem eager to emphasize that, according to OLAF (the EU’s Anti-Fraud Office), Hungary has been leading the pack in terms of financial irregularities uncovered between 2015 and 2019, the authors didn’t care to mention that these cases deal with irregularities that actually took place under the previous, leftist governments between 2002 and 2010 — that is, not under Orbán.

In particular, among the largest of these cases is the new metro line in Budapest. In that case, OLAF recommended Budapest repay more than 280 million euro. Who was in power then and responsible for those contracts? The Socialists and liberals. But the New Statesman reporter neglects that important detail.

The problem with New Stateman’s rather selective handling of statistics is further amplified by the fact that they fail to mention that Hungary is among the leaders in Europe in terms of the percentage of proceedings launched as a result of OLAF warnings. What’s more, unlike in Germany, where the Justice Minister may give instructions on how to conduct proceedings, the Hungarian Chief Prosecutor’s Office, the state body in charge of launching court proceedings, is fully independent from the government and is supervised by the Hungarian National Assembly.

This means, and this is exactly how the Fundamental Law intended it to be, that even if the Hungarian government wanted to interfere with investigations into corruption schemes, it could not within the constitutional legal framework established by the very leadership with whom publications like New Statesman seek to find fault. Editors and biased reporters who claim otherwise are not telling you the truth.

But what would you expect from a publication that just a few weeks ago ran a story finding fault with Hungary for purchasing Chinese and Russian vaccines because it “could undermine the EU,” as if the government’s most important responsibility were to protect the EU instead of protecting Hungarian citizens.

Photo credit: NewStatesman