The following essay is an open letter from the Hungarian journalist and author István Lovas to a German media correspondent who takes the standard German/EU line on Hungary.
Many thanks to CrossWare for translating this piece. To the links she included I have added more for various personalities mentioned in the letter — in English when I could find them, otherwise in Hungarian:
Letter to Keno Verseck, the Budapest correspondent for Der Spiegel and Deutsche Welle
Subject: Are you crazy?
You were interviewed on Friday with a longer interview with Deutsche Welle, a public service broadcasting in 30 languages. You know, the funding of which is also compulsory for German taxpayers, who are deliberately misled by you. As you say, democratically.
Interview theme: “Freedom of the Press”
The grand title: “In Hungary Orbán sows hatred”
As you usually do it: the use of the word “hatred” is almost always mandatory. It is particularly worshiped in titles. After that, everyone is waiting for “populist”, “nationalist”, “anti-Semitic” and similar expressions. And if it is about the Hungarian Prime Minister, then the “right-wing nationalist” prefix is obligatory before his name, unlike previously with the former Prime Ministers of Bajnai or Gyurcsány; no qualifying modifier was ever given, although the Hungarian people could recommend you a bouquet for their characterization.
Sometimes the “folk-national” sign, especially if Magdalena Marsovszky is quoted: the point is to instantly make the article credible, because each reader knows in which direction they should stand at attention.
The interview’s editorial summary: “ Hungarian correspondent Keno Verseck’s name emerged in the blacklist of journalists in newspapers close to the government. This is a clear indication that the public climate is becoming poisonous.”
The conversation begins with your colleague’s question:
“The Hungarian Times, which is close to the government, published a list with the names of Hungarian correspondents. Your name appears, and you were attacked vigorously there. How did you learn that you were included?”
In your reply, you also said that the article calls on the government to “take action against us”. He adds: “It is still to be said that The Hungarian Times in Hungary is almost the official announcement medium for the government.”
He then refers to the Soros mercenary list, and writes, “This article is about us here, about foreign correspondents, from independent journalists whose reports are obviously painfully affecting the Orbán government… that is, they are tightening the reins now that Orbán wants to show how much power he has.”
Finally, you tell us that you have lived for a long time in Hungary (35 years) and are able to speak Hungarian. And you have the audacity to lie to our faces that when he was first “researched” in Hungary as a journalist, at the end of the 1980’s, the climate at that time was not as “scary” as it is today. Which in itself is characteristic of the “research” of journalists. This was the time when I was unable to obtain an entry visa for your journalism field, as I was a staff member of Radio Free Europe, although I only wanted to visit my family.
The last sentence is: “And those who feel powerless or feel that there is no way to act in opposition will leave the country.”
Lie about the country again, from whose area the least proportion (6%) of people left who wanted to work abroad, compared to the total population.
Now, let’s look at the article whose title and subject was obviously not mentioned “accidentally”.
Title of the article published on April 18: “Journalist of the Year” encourages spitting in Viktor Orbán’s face”
Which address and subject (A Dutch Public Radio presenter asks an MEP, if he meets Orbán, to spit in his face) probably would have been embarrassing for you to mention.
It is also states that I am the author who wrote this sentence in the article, which you interpreted as a threat, about the government’s official position against foreign correspondents:
“The Hungarian government should now reflect on and analyze the services of Keno Verseck, Gregor Mayer, Bernhard Odehnal, Florence La Bruyere, and the rest of the local ultra-liberal bespoke opposition, as they spread the most ultra-surreal lies, without any fact-checking, to tens of millions across the globe.”
I write my response to comfort you.
I have nothing to do with Viktor Orbán or his staff. It is not so much that my rare interview requests are rejected, as I most recently did one with Zoltán Kovács, a government spokesman. Moreover: the office of Chancery Minister János Lázár blocked my internet access, because they somehow do not like it when questions are asked from an “illiberal” side.
I am never invited to [Fidesz] Party events, which I am very happy about, as it confirms my status as an independent journalist.
I never write articles in The Hungarian Times or any other media by request, but only when it is my own idea.
Neither Viktor Orbán, nor his entourage, nor the editor-in-chief or associates of The Hungarian Times are telling me to what to write. What I write is my own opinion.
And for a million bucks I would not write a sentence that felt strange to me. Not even if they were to threaten to put a large nail into my forehead. Like I always did. My opinion has not changed since I wrote my first article in 1992 in the Pesti Hírlap [Pest Newspaper], which was strangled by your beloved Socialist-Free-Democratic coalition in 1992.
This was the case when Fidesz still favored a transatlantic commitment, and in the Magyar Nemzet [“Hungarian Nation”, newspaper], I urged an opening toward the East. As I am pleased to note today, this government has done it.
When the Fidesz government placed to positions or promised high ranking positions to such people as former Foreign Minister Géza Jeszenszky or MNB (Magyar Nemzeti Bank, Hungarian National Bank) President
Ákos Bod Péter as Viktor Orbán’s candidate for the post of Prime Minister, I wrote dozens of articles seriously criticizing their move.
But nowadays almost everything I have proposed has become a government policy, so I do not have to judge the government in so many areas. According to your logic, this is obviously because I govern the government.
But if I feel that our opinions are severely different, I do not hesitate to express mine. Like that big scandal, when in a provocative open letter I called for Tünde Handó, the President of the National Judicial Bureau — thanks to policy changes is just about to become an abolished position — to report me [to the police], because she is so afflicted with Stockholm Syndrome toward the liberal movements, or prone to appoint liberals to positions. I called her a “warthog”, because if I am reported, then I can explain in detail to the public the enormous damage she is causing with this, while you, rotten to the core, self-absorbed, liberal correspondents claim, that the Orbán government controls the justice system, where nine out of ten judgments favor liberals.
But you are lying in everything fluently! How many times, for example, were you willing to write about government media oppression, when it should have gouged your lefty eyes out every day when you went to a gas station, a newsstand, or a supermarket, and saw the huge opposition in the weekly newspapers, which is equally strong in Hungary’s smallest village, and also present in television stations and Internet portals?
Like your colleagues, not once [did you mention that]! Because they are lying in the night, they are lying in the daylight, and unanimously about what can only be an imaginary media dictatorship, confirming the poor, deceased Udo Ulfkotte daily.
Tell me if you would have the courage to call Chancellor Merkel, if not a warthog, at least a strayed leader? Because then we could believe that Deutsche Welle and Der Spiegel, where you report, are not the government’s media on a leash.
Otherwise, do not be afraid for a moment. In fact, it is in vain, when I urge the government to behave accordingly if they are already accused of implementing illiberal democracy. They will not do that. You will, unfortunately, continue to lie about Budapest for another few years, like a henchman, echoing the most insolent lies of the opposition party, without any fact-checking, just like BBC’s Nick Thorpe or his German counterpart, Boris Kálnoky.
And reassure everyone: CEU [George Soros’ Central European University] will be here in the elections of 2022, even though I would kick them out of Budapest as Vaclav Klaus did, when he was Czechoslovak Prime Minister, from Prague, without having to say a word about it.
As far as migration is concerned, try to bring non-superficial common sense into your journalist’s life at least once and ask yourself the question: was there ever a case of punishment for a country for not wanting to accept “something good”, as stated by your Merkel and Macron about migration?
And when you write your next article, you should try to salute with only one hand, because you will be able to more rapidly churn out the text that appears in all German mainstream media with the same trend and smell.
Tschüss! [See ya! — in German]
Hat tip: Szilárd.