Orbán government fails to meet Council of Europe guidelines on media freedom

The January session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) discussed the Hungarian media situation and Fidesz’ propaganda media as well. As a member of the Hungarian delegation, Jobbik MP Koloman Brenner made a speech in Wednesday’s debate on the two reports titled “Media freedom as a condition for democratic elections”, and “Public service media in the context of disinformation and propaganda”.

Addressing the plenary session in Strasbourg, Jobbik’s deputy parliamentary faction leader talked about the smear campaigns that the public service media and the “commercial media outlets” owned by pro-Fidesz oligarchs had been conducting against the leading politicians of the opposition party. Mr Brenner explained that these actions affected the outcome of the election as well since the opposition politicians were blocked from getting their ideas and political opinions through to the voters. Jobbik’s MP also said that even though his party won nearly 200 libel suits against the government’s fake news media, the damage was already done and there was no way to minimize it after the election.

Noting that the 2019 elections were going to be crucial, he warned that the largest Hungarian opposition party would have to face the same conditions in the upcoming EP elections and then the autumn municipal contest in terms of communicating its in-depth concepts on Europe’s and Hungary’s future. He added that the Fidesz government apparently had not at all been affected by the member state guidelines and recommendations laid out in the reports that the plenary meeting discussed in Strasbourg.

Jobbik’s deputy faction leader said he wanted to know how long the politicians of the EPP faction were going to keep tolerating the ignoble activities conducted by their fellow party members in Hungary. According to Mr Brenner, the EPP family was not going to deal with the issue until the May elections in hope of maximizing their political gains. Jobbik’s MP expressed his opinion that those who had an insight into Viktor Orbán’s way of thinking (like Jobbik’s politicians, for example), knew very well that he would talk and act completely differently after May 27, and without missing a beat, too, if his interest so requires.

Talking to Alfahir after the Wednesday session, MP Brenner explained that the CoE can regularly warn member states if they do not meet the recommendations on media freedom. However, the Council of Europe cannot impose sanctions and that’s why it was very important for the Hungarian voters to demonstrate in the EP elections in May that they do not support the idea of Orbán’s authoritarian regime being worked up even further.

The reports discussed by the PACE noted that media freedom was a fundamental condition for democratic elections and/or the struggle against misinformation and propaganda. Member states must guarantee the freedom of programming in the public service media. Furthermore, they must also provide adequate and stable financing to make sure there is quality journalism that enjoys the trust of the public. The reports also suggest that public service media should contribute to the fight against misinformation and propaganda by developing education programmes for the public as well as encouraging a critical approach to information and sources. (The Hungarian public service media is indeed very far from these guidelines.)

Protection of ethnic minorities also on the agenda

PACE’s Thursday plenary session discussed the situation of ethnic minorities, too. According to the report of MTI Hungarian News Agency, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland asserted that protecting ethnic minority rights and languages is a key political duty for the Council of Europe and each member state as well because these are the rights that stabilize Europe and help prevent further conflicts. The Secretary General made the above statement in response to Christian Democratic MP Lőrinc Nacsa’s question on Ukraine’s education law. Thorbjørn Jagland noted that it was a priority for the CoE to prevent national minorities from their rights (including the right to use their native language) being curbed, or from losing their acquired rights. He expressed his hope that the further discussions would convince Kiev to meet its commitments and the guidelines of the Venice Commission.

Answering Alfahir’s question, Mr Brenner reminded that Jobbik’s EP election programme laid great emphasis on the autonomy for Hungarian ethnic minorities who “currently live under double pressure”. According to the MP, firstly they are under pressure from the country where they live to give up their Hungarian native language and culture and, secondly, they are pressurized by Fidesz, which expects them to pay for the financial support by refraining from forming a political opinion but keeping busy delivering the votes for the Hungarian governing party. Expressing his party’s position, Jobbik’s politician asserted they wanted ethnic Hungarian communities living in Szekler Land (Romania), Transcarpathia (Ukraine), Vojvodina (Serbia) and the Slovak Republic to be able to make their own decisions for themselves. Talking about Ukraine’ language law, Koloman Brenner said the CoE was constantly monitoring how the provisions of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities are met. This way they can apply a constant pressure on Ukraine, the current behaviour of which is in violation of international obligations, the MP added.

 

Alfahír.hu - Jobbik.com