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Mar 30, 2020 - Zoltán Kovács

The coronavirus protection law and the new depths of liberal media cynicism

The Guardian leads the race to the bottom.

As of this morning, Hungary has 447 people confirmed as infected with the coronavirus and fifteen people have lost their lives to the disease. Sadly, as we approach the period of mass infections, those numbers will rise. Our national health care system and the healthcare professionals who are making a heroic contribution every day, are being challenged like never before. Despite our best efforts, people will become critically ill and some will die.

Determined to flatten that curve, slow the spread of the virus and save lives, this government is doing everything in its power. We’re fighting an unknown enemy, and we’re taking extraordinary measures to beat it because our people remain our first priority.

Today, the National Assembly is expected to pass a new law to protect against the coronavirus, which includes those extraordinary measures, including extending the state of emergency – or state of danger, as our constitution refers to it.

But in “The Guardian View on Hungary’s coronavirus law: Orbán’s power grab,” the editorial that the far-left British paper published on Sunday night, the authors are worried about how it will “marginalize critics and political opposition.”

To read the editorial is to gain a glimpse into the minds of liberal media so blinded by their own ideological view of the world, so out of touch with the people, that it’s as if they lived on another planet, far removed from the life and death decisions that leaders are compelled to make in this pandemic.

A full 90 percent of Hungarians, according to recent polls, say that the state of danger that introduced the extraordinary legal measures should be extended. N-I-N-E-T-Y percent. How long should it be extended? Nearly 60 percent say that the state of danger and the extraordinary measures should be extended until the end of the pandemic.

Back on Planet Guardian, the “Hungarian parliament, dominated by his Fidesz party, is expected to rubber-stamp the “protecting against the coronavirus” law, ushering in an indefinite period of what amounts to one-man rule in an EU member state.”

It’s not a “rubber-stamp” parliament. The ruling alliance, Fidesz-KDNP, has a two-thirds majority from the mandate given by the Hungarian voters in 2018. The parliament is not dissolved as some media falsely claimed. And indefinite does not mean it will not come to an end. It will come to an end whenever the parliament decides to lift it or when the pandemic itself comes to an end.

"At any given moment, Parliament must be in a position to take back the right of decision from the government,” Prime Minister Orbán told the National Assembly during last Monday’s debate. “I don't ask for a week, two days, neither for ninety days. You misunderstand the situation. I don't need a fixed deadline. You can take it back tomorrow morning if you consider it inadequate."

Just as in wartime, a state of emergency could extend until the end of hostilities. Today, we confront not a military power but are in a war-like state to defend our people against a pandemic the likes of which we have not seen in a century.

The authors misrepresent the bill – again – claiming that it proposes to punish the “spreading of ‘false’ information that could lead to social unrest and prevent the “protection of the public.” Yes, the law includes criminal sanctions, including possible prison sentences, but only during the state of danger and for intentionally spreading false information or distortions that could endanger or hinder efforts to protect the population.

What do Hungarians say about that provision? Some 72 percent support amending the Criminal Code to include these sanctions. Because it’s about saving lives.

A few days ago in Belgium, a minority government was awarded special powers to sidestep the normal legislative process in order to deal with the impact of coronavirus. The Swedish Parliament decided recently to temporarily cut the number of MPs from 349 to 55. France saw a two-year-long state of emergency and government by decrees from 2015 to 2017. President Macron recently declared that “We are at war,” and the Czech government has hinted at an extended closing of its national borders.

I’m not questioning these measures. But neither, it seems, is The Guardian. The writers at the far-left are worried about the marginalized Hungarian opposition.

Over the years, I’ve read quite a lot of slanted reporting on Hungary in the international press. But this is something different. The Guardian has an astonishing record of late for being completely out of touch with the people on every major issue – from the most recent UK general elections to Brexit, in which they proved completely tone-deaf. But this is more than that.

To write that Prime Minister Orbán acted with “ruthlessness” to exploit this terrible crisis for his own political gain sinks liberal media cynicism to new, despicable lows.

Like the vast majority of Hungarians, I look forward to the passage of the bill this afternoon and the extension of the state of danger and extraordinary measures. Because of these, I remain hopeful that together we can save lives and overcome this pandemic.

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