A propos to the recent 30th anniversary of Hungary’s opening of its border with Austria, the so-called Pan-European Picnic, Germany’s public radio Deutschlandfunk ran a five-part series (I., II., III., IV., V.) by Stephan Ozsváth, covering an array of topics, ranging from the alleged backsliding of Hungarian democracy to press freedom and the relocation of a statue of Imre Nagy.
Ozsváth, like other reporters more concerned with depicting a particular narrative than reporting on facts, paints a dramatic picture of today’s Hungary under the Orbán Government. His journalism is partial, to say the least.
Perhaps the most amateur aspect about the radio series is that, although these topics have already been addressed several times, the author doesn’t care to mention any of our arguments. Stephan Ozsváth, of course, brings in the heavy artillery from the leftist, liberal side of the political spectrum without giving space for any counterargument that would dare to challenge the monochrome, liberal canon. But we have stated our case on several occasions. Once upon a time, in another age of journalism, it would have been seen as professional malpractice to leave that out. Today – at least for Ozsváth and Deutschlandfunk – not so much.
Here are some examples where the reporter chose to ignore facts and, well, didn’t do his job.
According to historian János Rainer (one of the interviewees in the program), the statue of Imre Nagy, a communist leader who attempted reforms in 1956 just before Soviet tanks arrived to squash the Hungarian Revolution, was moved away from its former location close to the Hungarian Parliament because Nagy no longer fit the government’s view of history.
Needless to say, the move had a completely different reason. In fact, the Imre Nagy statue previously stood on the same spot where a memorial honoring the victims of the 1918-19 communist Council Republic had been erected in 1934, a memorial that was torn down by the communists in 1945. Even our political adversaries would have to agree when we say that the victims, the real heroes of communist oppression, are the ones who should be honored. And it’s not like the Nagy statue was removed; it was relocated a couple of blocks away to another prestigious square.
On the decline of Hungarian democracy, Ozsváth said that while Fidesz has been governing for 10 years now with a two-thirds supermajority, the opposition in rural Hungary is being suppressed. Fidesz has money, he continued, adding that it controls the media and enjoys a playing field, marked out by the electoral code, that is tilted in its favor. In his next chapter on press freedom, the reporter interviewed a journalist at a small paper in the southern city of Pécs, who talked about occasions when he was denied entry to press conferences. The reporter argued that he was denied entrance on the grounds that he writes for an “anti-Orbán” outlet.
That’s a slanted argument. We are just a few weeks after local elections in Hungary when the opposition won in several municipalities, taking the influential title of mayor of Budapest in addition to a few previously Fidesz-dominated districts. Hungary’s democracy is alive and kicking. Just like the anti-Orbán media. In fact, opposition media remains strong: Among online media outlets (a format preferred by most Hungarians), portals with a strong anti-Government tone reach more than twice as many people than sites considered conservative-leaning. I’ve written several times (see this post) on the online media and the left-liberal dominance there, but Ozsváth ignored that.
And the list goes on. Sometimes we hear valid arguments coming from abroad, and we are known to address them accordingly. But not when criticism comes in a completely unhinged, biased, and distorted manner. Seeing only one side of the coin is easy, as it doesn’t require one’s scrutiny or attention. Seeing something that’s in conflict with an opinion you hold, however, can be mentally challenging.
Let’s not shy away from a little challenge.