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Nov 27, 2020 - Zoltán Kovács

It’s about “standards”: Here’s why Project Syndicate refused to publish Prime Minister Orbán’s reply

The editors at Project Syndicate replied in the end, but mind you, they did so to a left-liberal weekly, not us. These advocates of a liberal, open society cited “standards.”

 

The “rule of law,” one of the European Union’s most fundamental values, is increasingly being turned into a weapon against Member States that hold a different view on key issues, like migration. In response to this, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki announced last week that they will exercise a political veto over tying access to common EU funds to an ambiguous set of “rule of law criteria.”

Two days later, on November 18, George Soros published on Project Syndicate a call to arms for his liberal audience, calling on them to “circumvent” the “Orbán-Kaczyński veto.” We reached out to Project Syndicate with a request that Prime Minister Orbán be given an opportunity to respond on their pages, and the Cabinet Office of the PM even sent a draft. Project Syndicate editors never bothered to respond, effectively ignoring the classical liberal spirit of audi alteram partem – to let the other side be heard.  So, we published PM Orbán’s response to George Soros here.

After we published, the Project Syndicate editors found time to respond to left-liberal, Hungarian weekly HVG, saying that PM Orbán’s article “fell short of the standards” required by Project Syndicate.

That’s more than a little hypocritical.

By refusing to publish PM Orbán’s response on the same platform that accommodates the unelected George Soros’ ideologically charged opinions on the direction of the European Union and blunt criticisms of Hungary and Poland, Project Syndicate disregards the very basic tenets of journalism and debate. They simply ignored our request and could not be bothered to offer an explanation, a disappointing lack of decency and respect.

“The ideal Project Syndicate commentary is an intellectual argument or policy proposal intended to inform readers and broaden public debate,” we read in the “Submission Guidelines” section on their home page. Without a doubt, PM Orbán’s reply qualifies as “an intellectual argument,” and it also aims to “inform readers” and “broaden public debate.” In fact, the prime minister’s piece extends the scope of the discourse to include a different set of arguments and provides the public a glimpse of an entirely reasonable position. However, the positions of a prime minister of an EU country are apparently not up to snuff for the liberal, mainstream Project Syndicate editorial board to publish it.

It’s striking to see the liberal bias at work. George Soros is given plenty of space whenever he wants to call Hungary names, including “mafia state” and “cleptocracy,” but when Hungary’s democratically elected leader seeks to defend Hungary’s position, he is denied the opportunity. Behold the tolerance of the independent press in an open society!

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