Ever since Orbán expelled the EPP and announced it as a victory he has been desperate to show them.
In an effort at a comeback he invited Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Italy’s Matteo Salvini to Budapest to forge a European alliance of me-first nationalists.
A naïve bystander would assume that a Nationalist Internationale would be difficult to create because all nationalists believe in the supremacy in their own respective nations – but that bystander would be wrong. That’s not why they can’t get along. Many of them don’t even really like their own countries, they would sell it out to Putin in a heartbeat to secure their own, hairy asses in the seats of power.
But not all of them. And that was the real problem this time because the Poles are not as stupid about Russia as others apparently are.
So the big event ended without any earth-shaking announcement – and that wasn’t the first time in the history of attempted nationalist alliances.
So far it’s a slow news day, I wouldn’t bother to take note, were it not for the closing press conference that took place without the press. Not even the Orbánist media. Salvini is a rookie beginner compared to Orbán when it comes to building an autocracy. He is so used to journalists’ questions that he expected them to happen after finishing his speech, so he put back his ear piece to hear question from the floor.
But Orbán knew better. Independent media is never “invited” to press conferences in Hungary (read: they are not allowed in), but due to corona, we don’t even have the loyalist media present anymore with their pre-written, subservient questions.
This was the state of Hungarian vs Italian media freedom beautifully illustrated in a single, unguarded moment.
When Salvini noticed that there won’t be any questions this time, he no doubt marveled how cool Orbán’s life is compared to his. Then he took out his translator and lined up for the group photo. (What he didn’t’ know is that Orbán is no longer in the mental shape to give real interviews and not bury himself in the process.)
Incidentally, this is the kind of media landscape Austria’s Heinz-Christian Strache was wishing out loud on his Ibiza tapes when he, too, was selling his country out to Putin. Or so he thought.
The parallels did not escape the attention of an Austrian journalist, Franziska Tschinderle of Profil, who then sent three questions via email to Orbánist MEPs in Fidesz’ EP delegation.
And that gave us our second media history moment, when the completely reasonable questions outraged the Hungarian government.
In the evening a three-minute (!!!) hit piece was broadcast on the turbo-loyalist Hungarian public broadcaster’s evening news segment, attacking the offending Austrian journalist.
It was titled “Journalist provokes with questions”
And they actually mean it. How dare they asking questions? Everything that inconveniences the powerful, even if it’s in their head, will be attacked by the underdogs. And the public broadcaster is such an underdog, straight under the thumb of spin doctors.
Naturally, they did not ask the journalist in question to defend herself on the program – smear campaigns are to be run without giving the victim a platform to speak. Actually, they never give non-Orbánist a chance to speak. And they are the public broadcaster, burning through an extraordinary amount of public money every year.
For us, there is no surprise here. After all, these are the minds who accused Telex.hu of “going behind the government’s back by asking for money straight from the people” to launch a new, independent news portal. Telex.hu was a crowdfunding success when their old news portal was taken over by Orbán loyalists. And not asking for permission to exist from Orbán IS a major crime in this country.
Poor Austrian journalist was naturally taken aback, but she quickly realized that this is what Hungarian journalists are dealing with every day of the year – authorities that don’t even pretend to answer, they may even attack the journalists.
When the Austrians took up the issue of their journalist being attacked the Hungarian broadcaster reacted the only way they could: another hit piece doubling down on their incitement. This time it was five minutes long and they also attacked Hungarian journalists who dared to write about the issue, and listed them with names and photos.
The Hungarian foreign minister was crying cancel culture. He rejected Austria’s complaints over the report and said Tschinderle was “spreading fake news.”
“I see, I hear that there is a lot of excitement in Austria because the Hungarian Television dared to criticize an Austrian journalist…A liberal journalist can go ahead and spread fake news about a country since there is freedom of the press, but if another journalist dares to criticize her…it is an attack on freedom of the press.”
Both Austrian and Hungarian journalists involved will no doubt see plenty of online harassment, much of it from voluntary loyalists, and the story is not over. Austria’s foreign ministry called the television report “unacceptable” and their foreign minister contacted his Hungarian counterpart.