Fidesz begins intimidation campaign against civil society with Soros mercenary list

Attila Chikán, the Minister of the Economy during the initial years of the first Orbán government (1998-2002), broke down in tears on live television Thursday night. He was one of hundreds of mostly private Hungarian citizens who were listed in the Figyelő propaganda weekly as being “mercenaries of Soros.” Barely 11 years ago, on the nineteenth anniversary of Fidesz, Viktor Orbán himself commended Mr. Chikán as having developed the forum that led to the birth of Fidesz in March 1988. Three decades ago Mr. Chikán also coordinated the George Soros grant that funded Mr. Orbán and a handful of other young Fidesz founders. Mr. Chikán has not seen eye-to-eye with Fidesz on economic matters for a number of years and he is a member of the board of Central European University. As such, he is now labelled as being a mercenary of George Soros.

“We have a very rough and hastily prepared list, on which highly respected Hungarians are listed–people who have a history of serious accomplishments in their fields. It will always be a great honour for me to appear on a list with the likes of János Kornai,” said Mr. Chikán, in tears. The 90 year old János Kornai, now deemed to be a Soros mercenary, is an economist who in the eighties was a prominent voice against communist-style central economic planning.

Other people considered to be Soros lackeys include János Kis, one of the key people behind the transition to democracy in Hungary in 1989-90. Former Mayor Gábor Demszky earned a place on the list for the simple reason that it was under his tenure that Central European University opened its campus in Budapest. The ominous list includes the names of professors and researchers at CEU, members of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, the members of the Károly Eötvös Institute think tank, members and employees of a foundation that works with the Roma community called Romaversitas, a foundation that offers aid to disadvantaged Hungarian children called A Chance for Disadvantaged Children Foundation, as well as Hungarian members of Amnesty International. Journalists from the Direkt36 website are also among those listed.

Among the alleged Soros mercenaries are long deceased individuals as well. For instance, British-Czech philosopher Ernst Gellner died in 1995 and former CEU rector Yehuda Elkana died in 2012, but both appear on the list. István György Tóth of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences died 13 years ago, yet his name is also listed.

The late Professor György Boytha of both Pázmány Péter Catholic University and CEU also appears as a Soros mercenary, yet he died in 2010, before Fidesz even came to power. Mr. Boytha was a life-long supporter of Viktor Orbán. His son, Péter, responded: “He was never a member of any party, but he had political convictions. He was a true European and a supporter of Fidesz up until his death.”

The Soros mercenary list in Figyelő. Photo: Tamás Botos / 444.

The Figyelő weekly is owned by Fidesz court historian Mária Schmidt and her politician son, Péter Ungár, whose presence in the opposition Politics Can Be Different party (LMP) is increasingly troubling. When journalists phoned Ms. Schmidt to ask if she felt that publishing such a list was acceptable, she scolded the journalist for calling her directly, when he should have known that she employs an entire department to handle media queries on her behalf. When László Szily from phoned Péter Ungár for his opinion on the list, asking whether in light of this he could be a credible opposition politician, he said “thank you for your question and good-bye,” before putting down the phone. Later in the day, Mr. Ungár said that he “does not agree with the government nor with its propaganda.”

Figyelő is owned by Mr. Ungár and his mother through a family company called Pió-21. They purchased the publication, previously a respectable political weekly, in January 2017 and turned it into an overt propaganda organ of the Fidesz leadership. The publication survives financially due to lavish government, tax-payer funded advertising–sometimes up to a dozen full-page government ads in a single issue. Mr. Ungár claims that he receives no profits from his publication. As we reported earlier this week, Mr. Ungár is interested in purchasing the now defunct Magyar Nemzet daily, which ceased publication this week.

On Good Friday, Mr. Orbán announced that Hungarian national security authorities are monitoring 2,000 Hungarians deemed to be Soros spies. Just before that, on Hungary’s March 15th National Holiday, he declared that after the election, he would exact political, legal and moral retribution on his opponents. Figyelő’s appalling list, condemned by the United States Embassy in Budapest as clear intimidation, suggests that the regime has launched hunting season.

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