Have you heard anything good about Hungary in mainstream media lately? As in the last 10 years? Neither have I.
Usually, Budapest and conservative/populist government of Viktor Orbán tend to get a bad rap. Despite the fact that his FIDESZ party has won every single free election fair and square consecutively since 2010, there are invariably allegations of a "tyranny" or a "dictatorship," as well as inevitable comparisons to Russia's Putin, Turkey's Erdoğan, and Poland’s Kaczyński. The first two are apples to the Polish and Hungarian oranges, of course. But that is a standard mainstream narrative in the West.
The last Hungarian item that received widespread international coverage was the firing of Szabolcs Dull, an opposition editor in chief of an independent internet news hub Index.hu. Mass resignation followed, in protest, by about 80 of his journalists. Mass demonstrations broke out in Budapest in solidarity. That was in July.
Predictably, the firing was blamed on Hungary's government. True, the authorities did not appreciate the invariably negative coverage by Index. But what administration does? Donald Trump gets livid very easily about anything he perceives as U.S. media mendacity about his moves. But there is very little Trump can do against the "lying press." Orbán is not much different, except he can refuse to subscribe to outlets which hate him and to allow government advertising in them.
When angrily queried by the press, the foreign minister Péter Szijjártó pointed out correctly that Index was published by a private company. The owners had the right to fire or hire anyone they pleased. It was none of the government’s business. And he also added in frustration: "it is unacceptable constantly to question the democratic system of this country and nation without any basis and proof."
The foreign minister is right to a point. Index under Dull's thumb was a thorn in the government's side. Hence no taxpayer money in the form of ads reached the opposition mouthpiece. Private companies also stayed away with their commercials to remain on the good side of the political powers that be. Consequently, the advertising revenue was seriously down. The owners of the media outlet duly took notice and, ultimately, got rid of the truculent journalist to suck up to the authorities.
We know the mechanism perfectly well: That is precisely what our corporations do, including the NBA franchise, while kowtowing before China. There is always profit on their minds. But we properly blame the spineless and craven Western businessmen who kiss up to the Communist dictatorship.
Why should we then excoriate Orbán's democratic administration which is nowhere close to the ChiCom totalitarians? Blame the supine proprietors of Index. That was their fault.
Western media tends to be so prejudiced against Hungary that they either downplay them or right out gloss over in silence as far as various developments there that they otherwise consider newsworthy.
Take the last local self-government elections in Hungary in October 2019. Because of the FIDESZ complacency and arrogance, the liberal and leftist opposition recouped some ground. Most notably, Gergely Karácsony, a liberal opposition leader, trounced a conservative incumbent and was elected Lord Mayor of Budapest, no mean feat.
Karácsony immediately reverted to the progressive agenda from before the post-Communist and liberal defeat of 2010. This includes in your face promotion of the LGBT agenda.
The same applies to other towns where the opposition made a comeback, for instance Terézváros. Yet, a vigorous coverage of such liberal gains is almost entirely absent in mainstream Western media because it would show Hungary not as a bloody dictatorship but as a free and democratic state that it really is, where to the winner go the spoils.
Instead, there is either a telling silence on the LGBT resurgence or customary moaning that, allegedly, homosexuality is somehow persecuted on the Danube.
Thus, we cannot expect much good news from Hungary in Western mainstream media until Orbán loses power.
Is there any good news, in particular good news for America? You bet. On August 12 the Hungarian government committed itself to live up to its NATO obligations by increasing its hitherto lackluster defense spending. Namely, Budapest intends to buy American Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) System and related equipment by October 2020.
The system will be incorporated into NATO’s medium range air defense on our Eastern Flank. For the Hungarians, this is the largest defense purchase ever and the United States stands to earn $1 billion.
AMRAAM is a comprehensive step in the Orbán administration’s strategic commitment to NATO's "3 Cs" program: Cash, Capabilities, Contributions. Whereas under the previous, post-Communist regime the Hungarians devoted only 0.6% of their budget to defense, the conservative/populist government has now reached 1.6% and promises to achieve the required 2% in a few years.
In addition, Hungary carries other allied obligations, including maintaining troops overseas, who serve alongside the Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq.
So there is good news out of Hungary for America, even if it is not good enough for our mainstream media to celebrate.
Marek Jan Chodakiewicz is Professor of History at the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school of statecraft in Washington D.C.; expert on East-Central Europe's Three Seas region; author, among others, of "Intermarium: The Land Between The Baltic and Black Seas." Read Marek Jan Chodakiewicz's Reports — More Here.
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