Orbán marches in Paris, yet blocks freedom of speech at home

Viktor Orbán is desperately trying to make his countrymen believe that he is a respected politician in the European Union. His participation in the Paris march might have provided a great photo opportunity, but his dismal record in stifling free speech at home has not changed.

Reporters Without Borders (RWB) is a France-based international organization that defends freedom of speech. They issued a statement, noting that more than 50 leaders from around the world took part in a massive march in Paris in a show of unity against extremism and to honor the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre – seen as an attack on free speech and freedom of the press. Yet many of the heads of state, prime ministers and high-ranking ministers present represent countries that themselves have highly questionable records when it comes to free speech, from the suppression of demonstrations to the imprisonment of journalists.

Mr. Orbán in Paris

Mr. Orbán in Paris

“We have to show solidarity with ‘Charlie’ but without forgetting all the ‘Charlies’ around the world,” said Christophe Deloire, RWB’s secretary general. “It would be intolerable if representatives of states that silence journalists in their countries take advantage of the day’s emotion in order to improve their international image.”

RWB is making the point that representatives of Algeria, Russia, Turkey, Egypt, Gabon and Hungary marched in Paris yet these countries are oppressing free speech. Hungary ranks low on the annual Press Freedom Index (PFI), which places Finland at the top and North Korea at the bottom.

In June last year Hungary imposed a tax on media advertising revenue, generating more than 65 million euros a year for the government. The tax has hit main independent TV channel RTL Klub particularly hard, while TV2, a channel regarded as close to Orban’s Fidesz party, has been granted special dispensation from the new tax. In October, meanwhile, Hungarian citizens took to the streets to oppose a new tax on Internet usage.

Sooner or later Mr. Orbán and his supporters have to accept the fact that the Hungarian Prime Minister became an international pariah; he was not a welcome guest at the Paris event.

György Lázár

3 Comments

  1. András Göllner says:

    Orbán elbowed his way into the second line of the Parisian march of heads of states in order to get a good photo-op for himself, when he should have been last in line – or better still, stayed at home, like his pal, Vladimir Putin, under whose rule, more than 20 journalists were murdered, including the fearless Anna Politkovskaya.

    • Elbowed his way?? Yes, that’s correct, nail hit on the head. Couldn’t be said any better.

      I have told many times before and people found it hard to believe, but Orban seriously planned and dreamed about taking Barroso’s chair. He sees the world as a big soccer field and acts accordingly.

  2. ORBAN AND THE ODOR OF OLIVES

    “Hungary Offers Olive Branch to U.S.” Wall Street Journal, 13 January 2015 http://www.wsj.com/articles/hungary-offers-olive-branch-to-u-s-1421172721

    That’s rather rich:

    1. The US governement denies entry to high Hungarian officials, including the head of the Hungarian IRS, a personal friend of the prime minister, Viktor Orban, for corruption (e.g., what amounts to demanding bribes from US companies for doing business in Hungary).

    2. Orban (who calls all the shots in what he calls his “illiberal state”), instead of honestly and transparently investigating the corruption charges demands that the US goverrnment do the investigation and provide the evidence, accuses the US of trying to manipulate Hungary for US purposes, and publicly orders the head of the Hungarian IRS to sue the American embassy chargeé d’affaires (the US messenger) for defamation, or be fired from her job.

    3. And now Orban extends an “olive branch”: “Let’s let bygones be bygones. Forget these corruption charges. Back to business as usual.”

    There is something profoundly rotten going on in Hungary these days. Media control and other shenanigans have so far prevented the electorate from smelling it, for two terms, but by now the stench is becoming overwhelming internationally, and it’s even beginning to get through to the noses of the Hungarian citizenry, who have been demonstarting nonviolently in growing numbers for Orban’s ouster.

    Orban, with his US “olive branch” in one hand, has publicly floated threats to amend the laws of public assembly to put an end to this public unrest as part of a “national defence plan” to protect Hungary from the foreign forces fomenting these expressions of dissatisfaction from his unruly citizenry.

    Go figure.

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