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November 15 2012

Hungary: Why Do We Have To Pay Attention To China?

‘Az igazi Mao' blog [hu] is trying to draw attention to the contemporary China that Hungarian citizens may not be too familiar with; its title refers to a Hungarian experimental documentary, The Real Mao, which tells a fake story of former Chinese leader Mao Zedong. In a recent entry, ‘Az igazi Mao' blog shared an infographic [hu] comparing the size, the economy, the population, as well as the number of luxury cars sold and junk food restaurants built, in Hungary and in China.

October 03 2012

Hungary: Cycle Chic Summit in Budapest

International Cycle Chic Bloggers

Bloggers of Amsterdam Cycle Chic, Berlin Cycle Chic, Copenhagen Cycle Chic, Hungarian Cycle Chic, Vienna Cycle Chic and Vitória Cycle Chic blogs. Photo by Mikael Colville Andersen, the founder of the first cycle chic blog from Copenhagen. Used with permission.

Representatives of Amsterdam Cycle Chic, Berlin Cycle Chic, Copenhagen Cycle Chic, Vienna Cycle Chic and Vitória Cycle Chic gathered for a mini-summit in Budapest. This cycle chic event, organized by the bloggers of the Hungarian Cycle Chic blog, was tied to a street fashion show. More photos are here [hu].

September 26 2012

Hungary: Parliament Forced to Take Domestic Violence Seriously

According to NGOs fighting domestic violence [hu], about 70 women are killed by their partners or ex-partners every year in Hungary.

Domestic violence is an extremely severe problem in the Hungarian society, and Hungarians struggling to raise awareness of the issue were outraged when it turned out that a public proposal to put it on the Hungarian Parliament's agenda was deemed so unimportant that the parliamentary discussion was scheduled to take place in the middle of the night.

Facebook page ‘Bring attention to the issue of domestic violence in the Hungarian Parliament' wrote on Sep. 6 [hu]:

Between March 1 and May 1 of 2012, a total of 103,159 signatures were collected to stop domestic violence. A total of 50,000 valid signatures were needed to make the Parliament to schedule the debate about incorporating domestic violence as a separate offence. The result of the unprecedented cooperation is that the Parliament will hold the debate on penalizing domestic violence on Sep. 11 at 3 o'clock in the morning.

The Hungarian MPs did debate the public proposal (they ended up starting early, before 10 PM), but some of their comments caused public outrage. Especially remarkable were the comments of MP István Varga from the governing Fidesz party.

Eva Balogh of Hungarian Spectrum shared his overall ‘bests':

The learned member of parliament opined: “The most important calling for women and ladies, especially for young ladies, is to give birth. It is obvious that if everybody gave birth to two, three or four children, a gift to the fatherland, everybody would be happy. After that task is over, every woman can fulfill herself and may work at different jobs.” And if that weren’t enough, Varga proposed that “if three or four or five children were born, members of the family would respect each other more and then the question of violence within the family wouldn’t even come up.”

Kettős Mérce shared a collection [hu] of the best remarks in Hungarian. The day after, news site reported [hu], a spontaneous rally was organized on Facebook against the Parliament's decision, which rejected the proposal, and against Mr. Varga's remarks. The organizers of the demonstration wrote [hu]:

Last night at 2 am the parliament rejected a people's proposal on the criminalization of domestic violence. Istvan Varga, Fidesz MP in Parliament, discussing whether domestic violence should be a distinct criminal offence in the Criminal Code [following a petition signed by over 100,000 people making it mandatory for the parliament to discuss it]: “the Criminal Code cannot prevent domestic violence. maybe mothers should return to raising kids instead, have 2-3 or rather 4-5 children and then it would make more sense that spouses respect each other more and domestic violence would not even come up.” He then said it's all because of emancipation that women have forgotten to have kids, so there are fewer and fewer Hungarians now. We contest the misogynist discussion that represented women as incubators, against the idea that domestic violence is a consequence of women's emancipation and against the attempt of boycotting the public opinion due to the late night parliamentary discussion.

X Communications Centre, which is using methods of communication to generate positive changes in social, ethnic and democratic issues, started a viral campaign with a video featuring Hungarian celebrities and politicians, titled “A real man wouldn't hurt a woman.” A rendition of this slogan - “A real woman wouldn't hurt a man” - also went viral, observing the fact that men can also be victims of domestic violence. (X Communication Centre'sFacebook photo album with people holding placards with their slogan is here.)

Following the significant public pressure (as well as plenty of memes with Mr. Varga's words), the Parliament was eventually forced to treat domestic violence seriously. After the ruling Fidesz party changed its position, a week later, the retake of the initiative was supported by 366 deputies in favour, none against, with ten deputies abstaining, reported [hu] news site.

September 01 2012

Hungary: Government Criticized for Its Handling of Ramil Safarov's Case

The extradition of Ramil Safarov to Azerbaijan was based on the belief that he would continue to serve his life sentence there (the Hungarian government claimed this in an official statement [hu] on Friday). After Azerbaijan gave amnesty to the convicted murderer, however, Armenia suspended diplomatic relations with Hungary.

In 2004, Safarov was arrested in Hungary and later convicted for killing Gurgen Margaryan, an Armenian citizen, while both were participating in a NATO course in Budapest.

The Hungarian government has entered a very sensitive conflict, and Hungarian bloggers expressed their disappointment over the country's extremely unfortunate diplomatic resolution of Safarov's case. (A GV text on the reactions of Armenian and Azerbaijani bloggers is here.)

Ramil Safarov's portrait is set on fire during the protest by the Hungarian Embassy in Armenia's capital Yerevan. Photo by Steve Storey, copyright © Demotix (31/08/2012).

Örülünk, Vincent? blog wrote [hu]:

After the session of the National Security Council, Serzh Sargsyan, the Armenian President, announced that he gave an order to the Minister of Defense to put the Armenian Army units on special alert, and at the same time he announced that they were severing diplomatic and other ties with Hungary. Wow.

This is the greatest success of the Hungarian diplomacy so far. We have never gotten into a fight with any country this fast before. […]

Kettős Mérce blog's reaction [hu] was to mock the Hungarian government's rhetoric on opening up to and strengthening economic ties with Azerbaijan:

[…] But the punchline is still the fact that despite the Azeri government's promise that the young man would serve his remaining term, today the Azeri news agency reported that he got amnesty from the Azeri president. Long live the policy of opening up to the East, the reputation of Hungary and the truth that can be bought!

Vastagbőr blog cites the main events that led up to the current situation. The title of the post is “For money, anything” [hu]:

2004: Ramil Safarov, Zrínyi Miklós National Defence University's Azeri student, killed with an axe his Armenian fellow student. In his country he became a hero, because, according to them, killing an Armenian is [freaking] cool.

2006: The Hungarian court convicted Ramil Safarov to life. Azerbaijan has continuously demanded the man's extradition, but the Hungarian state kept refusing.

July 2012: Viktor Orbán [the Hungarian PM] in Azerbaijan: “closer cooperation with the Caspian Sea region.”

July 2012: [The Hungarian PM's spokesman] Péter Szijjártó's discussion with the Azeri Minister of Economic Development during his two-day visit to Baku.

August 23, 2012: A source close to the Ministry for National Economy told the Figyelő [weekly] that Azerbaijan might buy 2- or 3-year Hungarian bonds worth 2 or 3 billion Euros. This sum would cover the majority of our country's planned foreign currency bond issues this year.

August 25, 2012: Armenian NGOs protested against the potential extradition of Ramil Safarov, known as the Azeri axe murderer, who was convicted and is serving his term in Hungary.

August 31, 2012: Today the [Ministry of Public Administration and Justice], complying with the demand of Azerbaijan, transferred the convicted murderer to Baku, since “the Azeri ministry informed the [Ministry of Public Administration and Justice] that they woulnd't alter Safarov's conviction, but directly countinue carrying out the conviction based upon the Hungarian sentence.

While no official comment has been released on behalf of Hungary regarding the suspension of diplomatic ties with Armenia yet, Hungarian social media users are circulating the U.S. statement condemning the extradition.

Due to the flood of English-language comments critizing the Hungarian government, commenting has been disabled on PM Viktor Orbán's offical Facebook page. Harsh comments have also been posted on the Facebook page of the Embassy of Hungary in the United States.

Arsen Kharatyan, who protested in front of the Hungarian Embassy in Washington, D.C., shared a photo of himself holding a poster that read, “Buy justice in Hungary for 2 bln. $.”

August 29 2012

Hungary: Shantytown Destroyed to Help Real Estate Investment

Some 45-50 people living in their makeshift shacks in the abandoned woods alongside Fehér Road and Terebesi Road in the capital of Hungary, Budapest, were called upon to leave their homes at short notice in June 2012. Some of the residents, who have been living in their shanties for decades, have built up self-supporting farms, while some have been trying to make their living from collecting and selling scrap-iron. Rumours spread years ago that the city was planning to build a recreational park in the area.

Residents told's journalists that social workers from the Red Cross and the Baptists informed them about the eviction and offered places in their shelters. Civil rights movement A Város Mindenkié (The City is for All) criticized the forced eviction as illegal and noted that people would be provided with worse housing than the existing one.

Albert Jónás, a shantytown resident. Photo by

Kettős Mérce blog wrote [hu] about the case in June:

[…] One after another, the municipalities are announcing various decisions of destroying shanties, meanwhile they can’t provide an alternative to them. These people are not lazy, most of them work and they have built those shanties themselves, where they—even if modestly—live. The homeless shelters offered as alternatives, however, wouldn’t provide them with the opportunity of leading an independent life, but would only integrate them into the system forever. Today in Hungary there’s no such housing policy that offers an opportunity to start an independent life, so people are building these shanties and trying to create [that opportunity] outside of the state frameworks. […]

A Város Mindenkié held several protests in June [hu] against the forced eviction of the people from that area. (They shared photos of the ‘Terebesi woods' here.) On their blog, they wrote [hu] that the municipality provided two weeks to local social workers to find a place for these 50 people. They noted that homeless shelters were not proper alternatives, since the homeless can only spend up to two years there and without any income they, again, wouldn't have a place to go to.’s investigation [hu] has shown that social workers were asked to “solve this problem” by the District X municipality to help a real estate investment. As deputy mayor Tibor Weber informed’s journalists, investor Sidi Group’s plans to build 900 apartments, offices and some recreational areas are now in an advanced stage of authorization. Civil rights protests and increased media attention appear to have prolonged the eviction, which now seems to have turned into a lawful and negotiated procedure. Many of the inhabitants have moved out to shelters, some are still staying there, but the process is unstoppable for now.

August 02 2012

Hungary: Olympic Social Media Content Remains Scarce

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

With the total of four Olympic medals so far, including two gold medals, the Hungarian team is now #12 in the London 2012 medal count. Something to be proud of, for sure - but discussions of these results and other Olympic news are hard to find in the Hungarian social media.

For example, the story of a fencing champion Áron Szilágyi, who won Hungary's first Olympic gold - and then had to listen to an off-key version of the national anthem, has so far received only ten ‘likes' and three 'shares' [hu] on the Facebook page of the Hungarian Olympic Committee. (According to a Hungarian musician commenting for [hu], the anthem, performed during Szilágyi's medal ceremony, was in some parts played at a much higher pitch than the original. The Hungarian team asked the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) for the anthem to be played differently at future gold medal ceremonies, and they agreed.)

Five days before the Olympics opening ceremony, blogger Medeaeva tried to draw attention [hu] to the comparatively low level of the official Hungarian social media coverage of the event, hoping for more in the upcoming days:

[…] It is simply in the interest of the athletes, fans and especially sponsors to have high activity on their official channels. Official channels of which we have a total of 1.5 pieces now. The FB page of the [Hungarian Olympic Committee–HOC], where they share the news from the HOC website without commenting on them (423 likes), and the so far pretty cheap-looking (I hope this isn't run by the HOC or the [Media Support and Asset Management Fund]) “Let's root for the Hungarian team” page (290 likes). This is it. Zilch. Nil. Nothing else. Zero. The social media presence of the Hungarian athletes is on a pathetic level. Even the page of the water polo team, which I looked up as a last hope, was disappointing. (Basically, you can only find it if you are looking for it very much. :-/) The IOC has set up quite a tempting website, that could be used as well. […]

According to the Socialbakers' stats, there are ca. 4.5 million Hungarian users on Facebook. At the moment of writing this post, the Hungarian Olympic Committee has 1279 ‘likes', “Let's root for the Hungarian team” has 687 ‘likes', and the water polo team is now up to 15,706 ‘likes'.

Ágnes Urbán of Standards Media Monitor blog was puzzled by the facts contradicting the reality. According to a press release, the Media Support and Asset Management Fund (MTVA)—Hungary's all-in-one public service media company—has dedicated a crew of 72 to produce TV and radio shows on the Olympics, websites and mobile apps, and even a 3D broadcast was announced. Urbán wrote [hu]:

[…] It's almost incomprehensible how the social media could be left out of all this big preparation: moreover, they wouldn't even have to spend huge amounts of money on this, from the produced content and the news constantly arriving to the desk, one or two colleagues who could touch well upon the style of the social communication and could have built a popular news source during the Games. Compared to this, MTVA's Olympics team didn't succeed in appearing on Twitter and Tumblr, and on Facebook MTVA Sport's presence is let's just say low-key. Meanwhile, writing these lines on the evening of the third day of the Olympics, the “MTVA's official sport page” has reached only 2,000 likes, which is virtually reached by any sport pages hitting on the popularity of the Olympics. […]

Telefonközpont [hu], a blog on telecommunication in the digital age, is running a survey [hu] on its Facebook page until the end of the Games on how the Hungarian people follow the news of the London 2012 Olympics. So far, online press and television takes the lead, and Facebook is at #3.

This post is part of our special coverage London 2012 Olympics.

June 23 2012

Hungary: New Freedom of Information Tool

Vastagbőr blog [hu] is promoting the use of's new website KiMitTud ['WhoKnowsWhat'], which allows users to send freedom of information requests to any institutions responsible for spending public funds in Hungary. Vastagbőr wrote: “Those who have ever asked themselves these questions, ‘I wonder how much this cost?' or ‘Who has been contracted to do this?' should not wait but try to find out the answers themselves!” KiMitTud runs on’s engine and follows the examples of the UK-based WhatDoTheyKnow and AskTheEU, which is promoting transparency in the EU.

March 01 2012

Hungary: Tax Administration Investigates Citizen Activists

Véleményvezér blog commented [hu] on the news of the most popular citizen movement's activists being checked by the National Tax and Customs Administration, interpreting it as a sign of fear by the ruling party Fidesz: “Two years after [winning] a two-thirds [majority], they're already catching flies, they're chasing civil activists.” The movement being targeted now started from a Facebook page ‘One Million for the Freedom of Press in Hungary‘ (aka Milla; hu; over 99,000 followers) and organized several rallies against the new media law and the government's politics. On the Hungarian national holiday on March 15, Milla is planning to hold another rally.

February 14 2012

Hungary: Another Environmental Catastrophe in the Making

Parts of this text were published on

In October 2010, a toxic spill from a red sludge reservoir in Kolontár caused the greatest environmental disaster in Hungary's recent history. Toxic water and mud flowed through the nearby villages, killing ten and injuring many inhabitants who had not been informed about the danger of getting close to the deluge.

Residents of the town of Devecser, about 150 km west of the capital Budapest, hit by a flood of toxic sludge from an alumina factory were struggling to recover their belongings from the mud. Photo by Y ATTILA "BOGART" P., copyright © Demotix (6/10/10).

Since the production of alumina stopped, some alumina production waste sludge reservoirs in Hungary – similar to those that caused the October 2010 catastrophe – were or are being used for dumping other types of hazardous materials. Hungarian aluminium factories were privatized after 1990 at conveniently low prices. In exchange, the buyers had to take over the reduction of the previous environmental damages.

One of these factories – in Almásfüzitő, a town by the Danube River in north-western Hungary – has long stopped producing alumina. Its waste sludge reservoirs, however, are being used for hazardous waste produced elsewhere.

According to a document published by [.pdf, hu], a staff member of Tatai Környezetvédelmi Zrt. (Tata Environmental Protection cPlc., also known as TKV Zrt.) claimed this 15 years ago, in a university lecture about a technology used in “fixing” one of Hungary’s alumina production waste sludge reservoirs (at Almásfüzitő): “We are replacing an existing risk with another one.”

The lecturer added at the time: “The only way to sort out this area would be to remove the whole lot of 11,000 tons of waste from here.”

The document, which is a transcript of the lecture, proves that with the excuse of “reducing the damages,” these containers get infected with hazardous waste and even heavy metals that are dumped there by specialist companies. The consequences of this are unpredictable, but profits can be huge.

Olajos, a Hungarian blogger, wrote in a 2010 post [hu] that, according to documentation on hazardous waste, even in 2000 alumina production generated 14.45 percent of the industrial dioxin and furan:

[…] What is dioxin? Those who've been following the Ukrainian politics in the past few years have heard of it, since [Victor Yushchenko, one of the presidential candidates in the 2004 election] was poisoned with dioxin at the time.

The full name of dioxin is Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). This compound doesn't exist in nature, it is a by-product of human, industrial activity, it disrupts the immune system and causes cancer, and has a DNA-damaging potential. The long and short of it: this is an insidious poison and it can't deplete from the body. Factories release into the environment by-products containing dioxin. In Hungary, dioxin got out from a waste reservoir in Garé, a place which also turned into a symbol of environmental damage.

Less has been heard about furan, this compound didn't get as famous as its companion, but the environment can be polluted with this by-product as well, deriving from the alumina production. […]

By the end of 2011, Greenpeace started a campaign in Hungary drawing attention to the reservoir in Almásfüzítő. Pacsker of Greenr blog shared a Greenpeace video titled “A Street of Cancer Patients in Almásfüzítő” [hu] and commented on it [hu]:

There must be a very serious case for ELTE University's Cooperative Research Center for Environmental Sciences (CRCES) to be talking in a Greenpeace video. The case of Almásfüzítő is like that.

Judit Molnár [the young woman talking in the video] is 24 years old and she has gone through two neoplasia diseases, her sister has 19 malignant lumps in her body.

1.5 meter deep it's already oil that is flowing in the soil.

Red sludge is bagatelle compared to other materials poured into the reservoir.

The frogs are red [because of the liquid leaking from the reservoir].

The reservoir leaks in many places. The low tide [of the Danube right next to the reservoir] has proved this perfectly. The whole Budapest is drinking these industrial poisons and carcinogenic by-products!

And, in addition to this, the Tata Environmental Protection (SIC!) cPlc. is able to call this simply “composting”… Man, how can you compost inorganic waste?!

This is pouring hazardous waste into a reservoir leaking like a sponge. In Germany and Austria it is forbidden to mix different types of hazardous waste and to deposit them together. [Meanwhile] we are intentionally creating an environmental powder keg…

Since the publication of the transcript of the 1996 lecture, TKV Zrt. has contacted to claim – among other things – that the documents mentioned above had been manipulated and that the red sludge reservoirs at Almásfüzitő are not at all dangerous to the environment. Yet, a study [hu, with a summary in English] published in 2004 by the Geographical Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences supports the facts stated in the document published by

February 08 2012

Hungary: Goodbye, Malév!

Malév, Hungary's state airline since 1946, ceased operation on February 3, 2012, due to bankruptcy. According to news reports [hu], even the airline's employees were informed about the shutdown just an hour or so in advance. Some passengers learned the news when they tried to check in at the Budapest Liszt Ferenc Airport.

Hungarian citizens were shocked by the news, because even though the national carrier’s bad financial situation was well-known, Malév's rescue plans were being negotiated during the past few weeks. Many claimed the cause of the company's ill fate was bad financial management. In January, even the 2007-2010 state financial aid to the airline was deemed illegal by the European Commission. Eventually, business partners lost their trust in the company, and this tipped the balance on Friday when Dublin and Tel Aviv airports refused to give take-off permissions to Malév flights.

A Malév commercial, music composed by Gábor Presser

According to A REPÜLÉS Szakmai blog (THE AVIATION Professional blog) [hu], the last Malév flight landed in Budapest on Friday at 08:46 UTC (09:46 AM in Hungary), arriving from Helsinki. The words that the pilot said to the air traffic controllers have been shared by Hungarian netizens on many sound- and video-sharing sites:

Pilot: On behalf of the last Malév flight’s crew, we would like to thank you for the good, several-decade-long cooperation. See you.
Air Traffic Controller: We also thank you and wish you a good rest, I hope we will meet.
Pilot: Hope so, under some different name.

According to [hu], on Friday evening 14 Malév planes were returned to their lessor ILFC at an airport in Ireland. (See here for Malcolm Neson's photos of the Malév planes at Shannon Airport in Ireland.)

Csaba Demeter, a pilot who was among those flying the planes back, shared his story on Facebook [hu]:

[…] Around midnight we arrived to EINN [airport code for Shannon Airport, Ireland], landed one after another and rolled nicely, to salute in this way the past period. We stopped one after another, on rolling-roads, on parking spaces, we stopped them, unpacked and turned off the lights, our planes were in the darkness. It was an awful feeling, WE HAD TO LEAVE THEM THERE. We were hoping for a call [saying] COME HOME WITH THE PLANES this was just a dream or a bad joke. But nothing like that came. THEY STAYED THERE. All of them. :-( […]

People shared their thoughts on the sad fate of the national carrier. Csaba’s memories on Fékszárny blog [hu] tell the best what Malév meant for the citizens of this small Central European country:

I flew a lot with them, I have many good and many bad experiences as well. I wouldn’t tell about those because there is nothing special among them. Why I very much loved to fly with Malév and it always enjoyed priority in contrast to the others is that they were OURS. After being away from home for a long time they were the first signs of coming home. The mentioned white-blue painting with the Hungarian tricolor, the greeting at the door and the Hungarian newspapers. I usually spent 2-3 weeks abroad and not in cities and comfortable hotels, but in deserts and other great places. So coming home was always a big joy and its first messenger was the crew of the Malév flight. After a long, stressful trip even my eyes filled with tears when landing at the Ferihegy [airport]. It was a very bad [feeling] to look at the pictures and read the news on the internet. Let’s hope not all is lost, it would be good to see the red-white-green planes again.


According to Véleményvezér blog [hu], the national carrier “got into the perfect storm” of Hungary's economic dynamics:

[…] Malév got into the perfect storm from this perspective: it should have survived almost a decade of economic stagnation and almost a decade of mismanagement; whilst the two phenomena amplified each other. It did not survive and this is yet another nail in the coffin of our dreams and illusions about the leading position of Budapest and Hungary in the region.

Until a new Hungarian carrier is founded, Origo news site reports [hu] the pilots of the “Malév Hungarian Airlines Virtual” will keep on “flying” with the Malév call signs.

Thumbnail and featured image show Malév airplane, by Flickr user hugovk (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

January 29 2012

Hungary: “We Voted For Orbán, Not For Goldman Sachs”

Last Saturday, after several protests organized by citizen movements and opposition forces against the politics of the ruling Fidesz-KDNP government, Hungarians supporting those in power decided to express their opinion at a rally called Peace March.

According to the Hungarian Interior Ministry's report [hu], some 400,000 people expressed their support for the government at the peaceful - and cheerful - event.

‘We are the Hungarian people and we stand for Orbán's government!'. Photo by Redjade, used with permission.

Those who thought Fidesz-KDNP had lost the trust of the Hungarian citizens, drawing the consequence from the extensive foreign media coverage of the opposition protests in Budapest, were challenged this time by the fact that the government elected in 2010 with a two-thirds majority still enjoyed the support of many. (Fidelitas, a youth group derived from Fidesz, shared some 360-degree panoramic photos of the march.)

The protesters marched from Heroes' Square to Kossuth Square by the Parliament, where brief speeches were delivered. The main organizers of the event were Zsolt Bayer, author of opinion pieces at the conservative daily Magyar Hírlap, Gábor Széles, a wealthy Hungarian entrepreneur and owner of Magyar Hírlap, and András Bencsik, editor-in-chief of Magyar Demokrata [hu], also a Hungarian conservative daily.

The right-leaning blog Mandiner has been very critical of the government recently, and, at first, their blogger, Dobray, who visited the Peace March, also had some doubts regarding the event [hu]:

[…] Compared to what I had anticipated, the march came off even better: the mass of 400,000 (probably fewer than that, the protest maths [competition of whose protest had more attendees] was started by Bencsik at Kossuth Square when he said, referring to a television report, that they were 1 million, which was evidently an unreal figure) walked the distance, and, as no other options were listed on the program, no lame events happened. The puritan minimalism goes hand in hand with a portion of boredom well known from the first, eventless left-wing rallies. But it's hard to pick at that. And that there were some groups with Arpad's striped flags [a symbol of the far right] was not a big deal, we are used to that, they don't do any trouble. We will worry about some Arpad stripes protesters in a mass of a couple of hundred thousands if the left wing expels from their community the comrades parading in the USSR and Che t-shirts. […]

The fact that describes the complex situation in Hungary best is that the government's supporters oppose the talks and future agreements on the bailout from the EU and the IMF, while the opposition is in favor of reaching the agreements as soon as possible, in order to strengthen Hungary's volatile economy.

Pro-government protesters criticized EU/ECB/IMF for pressure on the government to take more bailout loans. Photo by Redjade, used with permission.

Many protesters arrived from outside the capital. The blog of the city of Ócsa wrote [hu] about why they considered it important to participate in the march:

People set off from almost every settlement of the country to express their solidarity with the government elected with the two-thirds majority, with its leader Viktor Orbán and with everyone who has been attacked in the past days. The marchers stand up for the sovereignity of Hungary and stick to the achievements of democracy, they can't stand that foreign politicians, businessmen, banks are willing to administer their lives. […]

Véleményvezér pointed out [hu] that most of the protesters were elderly:

[…] it was very striking that most of the marchers were aged 50 or older. They are the ones whose private pension savings were not taken away, almost none of them has a foreign currency loan, and the government specifically tried to support them, through measures like the one-time 8-percent pension makeup or by implementing the institution of securing employment for older persons. […]

'We voted for Orbán and not for Goldman Sachs'. Photo by Redjade, used with permission.

Dobray hints at the rumours about paid protesters and organized travel to the rally location, the accusations raised by opposition members:

[…] So now we are even, now really each and everyone has brought politics to the street. And it's funny that at any sort of protest the actual side opposing the protesters tries every method to discredit the other's event; and tries to find those whose travel has been paid for, who were paid to come and who were cheated, etc. Everyone is generous when it's about their protest, but if it's about the other's, they turn petty and suspicious. The neighbour's lawn is always wilted. I also would be happy if the Peace March didn't get listed among the ultimate arguments of Fidesz government allowing them to knock down all the opposing opinions. […]

Zoltán Ruzsbaczky of Mos Maiorum blog published a guest post [hu] on Konzervatórium blog, noting that the huge number of the pro-government supporters may signify the arrival of a new stage of democracy in Hungary, with a lot of people daring to stand up for their opinion:

[…] Of course, this needs a government that applies this trust and successfully navigates the tempestuous sea of international politics and with its economic policy it sets Hungary on the track of growth. Besides this, one can't get by those masses who still oppose the politics of the government. We will learn only later what the long-term effects [of this march] will be, [and whether there will be any].

January 13 2012

Hungary: President Accused of Plagiarism

Vastagbőr blog collected [hu] some internet memes about the President of Hungary Pál Schmitt, the newest of which appeared after news site published an article titled ‘Serious Suspicion of Plagiarism in Pál Schmitt's Ph.D. Dissertation‘ [hu]. According to, the President had allegedly plagiarized his dissertation ('Analysis of the Modern Olympic Games Program') from the text of a Bulgarian sports expert Nikolai Georgiev. The Presidential Office claims [hu] that Schmitt and Georgiev knew each other well personally, collaborated and used the same sources.

January 10 2012

Hungary: “Hey Europe, Sorry About My Prime Minister”

Hungary is ‘enjoying' an extensive foreign media coverage of the financial and political crisis in the country. Many well-known mainstream media outlets, such as the BBC, the Guardian, the New York Times or Al Jazeera have reported on the Jan. 2 protests against the new constitution, which came into effect on Jan. 1. Hungarian citizens, too, are constantly using blogs and social media to express their criticism of the government's measures and share the news of the country's volatile economy.

Although the rallies are growing more and more frequent, we confine this coverage to the protest that took place last Monday, presenting some of the Hungarian citizens' views on the event.

The purpose of the Jan. 2 rally was to speak up against the new constitution designed by the governing Fidesz and KDNP parties. To celebrate the constitution, the government organized a high-profile event at the Hungarian State Opera. The rally against it took place right outside the Opera.

Non-governmental organizations, civil movements and some opposition parties allied for the time of the protest to demonstrate that opposing the government's politics results in joint forces. The organizers wanted to avoid the influence of party politics on the event, and therefore only the representatives of civil movements and trade unions were the speakers.

A screenshot of the New York Times' front page, with a comment from the proud author who says it's priceless to have his rally poster featured in a US daily. From ‘Hey Europe, Sorry About Our Prime Minister' Facebook page

Still, the presence of political parties raised doubts in many. Tracey framed this in an article [hu] on LMV community portal and stated he/she wouldn't attend the protest:

[…] My first thought: is democracy in danger? I think it is not.

The current government has buried only one interpretation of democracy, it was the parliamentary democracy, but this was made possible by the previous governing parties since they discredited democracy, its institutions and like in a banana republic they used power to gain profit. The whole political elite of the past 20 years of transition is responsible for what Fidesz is doing, irrespective of [political] colours, so talking about a democratic opposition, ‘offering [the parties in opposition] comradeship', for the civil movements it's simply a dangerous self-delusion–except for if they want to give some party a leg up. […]

After the protest, Kékpóni drew a different conclusion on Kettős Mérce [Double Standard - hu]:

Though there were many things I disagreed with concerning the event, I still attended the protest held on Jan. 2, whose message is summarized in the slogan “Still, There Will Be a Republic of Hungary.” I felt that the fight for democracy and association are keywords I can support with the feeling of ease. […]

According to the calculations of Fideszfigyelő blog [Fidesz monitor - hu] some 32,000 or 50,000 people attended the protest. There were conflicts between the majority and the extreme-right protesters, who were also allowed to hold a 'small counter-rally' at the same place (as you can see on this YouTube video). Kettős Mérce reported [hu] that two activists of LMP (Politics Can Be Different party) were beaten by the extremists, one of them was searched by the police.

All in all, KA_Steve, one of the speakers, was happy with the outcome [hu]:

[…] I don't know how to put it but it was somehow uplifiting to see that self-satisfied politicians drunk with power are not able to organize an undisturbed celebration of themselves, even if they like it or not, they are obliged to celebrate the illusion of the System of National Cooperation, moving behind the four lines of police cordon, facing the citizens who are expressing their dissatisfaction loudly. […]

According to some rumours, high profile guests of the constitution's celebration had to use an escape route under the Opera to leave the building, journalists of news site interviewed [hu] the guests leaving through the Opera's back doors.

Kékpóni says the protests are just the tip of the iceberg:

[…] I am frankly happy for the shaping of a new Hungarian resistance, but I feel that the protest and anger focus only on the government measures, while what's being neglected is the fact that the system we are living in has not just got into crisis, this is just a more and more threatening consequence. Democracy will not end because of Orbán, it will end because we have not created it yet and we have not experienced yet the recognition that we have to do something for the creation–if we recognized it, there wouldn't be an Orbán system! […]

December 24 2011

Hungary: Presidents in Correspondence, Journalist in Blind Copy

Attila Mong, a Hungarian journalist, has obtained the letter sent by José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, to the Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán. The journalist has published in three parts the letter on his blog Napi Fix. The whole letter in English and in Hungarian is available in this post.

Mr. Mong was fired in January from a public radio channel for observing a minute of silence on the morning news program, protesting against the then introduced media law.

He has published an article [hu] about the content of the letter first on, a Hungarian news site. This happened following an interruption to the talks between the Hungarian government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) last week because of the two laws the government insisted on introducing. In his letter, Mr. Barroso advised the Hungarian PM to withdraw the two cardinal laws on the Hungarian National Bank and on financial stability for not being compatible with the European Union's legal system:

[…] These laws contain provisions which could be in contradiction with the Treaty and interfere with previously issued European policy advice. The Commission has serious doubts on the compatibility of the current version of the Magyar Nemzeti Bank (MNB) bill with Article 130 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. I also regret that the last drafts of these laws have not been subject to a consultation with the ECB which repeatedly expressed its concerns. […]

Since the credibility of the journalist had been questioned by several government officials (by the government's spokesman, Fidesz faction leader János Lázár [hu]), Mr. Mong decided to share the letter on his blog, mixing the order of the three parts and dedicating them to the officials and the minister leading the talks with the IMF. (Part one, Part two, Part three [hu]) In the fourth post [hu], he shared the whole text and pictures, confirming that he had a hard copy of the letter. This post was dedicated to Máté Kocsis and Sándor Pintér.

“How could the letter of the president of the European Commission get to journalist Attila Mong?” was the question raised by the member of the Hungarian Parliament, Máté Kocsis (also known for being the advisor on homeless issues of the governing party). The formal question [hu] was sent to the Minister of the Interior, Sándor Pintér, just a few days after the Hungarian Constitutional Court ruled out a part of the much-debated Hungarian media law in effect since January 2011. The decision was made in favour of journalistic source protection.

Signature of José Manuel Barroso on the letter sent to Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán, as published on Napi Fix

December 01 2011

Hungary: Solidarity With the Homeless and the Poor

Many citizen actions have been organized in the past weeks in Budapest in protest against the modification of the law that would punish “recurrent residing in public places” with an increased fine of €530 or imprisonment. The law is supposed to come into force by Dec. 1, 2011.

The City is for All grassroots group, fighting for the right to housing in Hungary, published this statement on their blog:

[…] Mate Kocsis, mayor of the 8th district forbade rummaging through garbage in the 8th district. Despite the fact that the ombudsperson for civil rights found the Budapest ordinance unconstitutional, hundreds of homeless people have been subjected to short-term arrest by the police in the past months on the grounds of the ordinance, and dozens of self-made homes have been destroyed by the authorities. […]

Rolling's photo titled 'Tete-a-tete' on, Creative Commons 2.5

European Federation of National Organisations Working With the Homeless (FEANTSA) published a press release condemning the regulation passed on Nov. 11:

[…] The drafters of the law argue that imprisoning homeless people is a “dissuasive” form of sanction. This is very cynical and ignores the fact that homeless people are often obliged to use public space to survive because of a lack of services, especially ones adapted to their needs. Framing homelessness as an offence subtracts the question of homelessness from social policies. It also constitutes a denial of state responsibility for what is often a result of structural problems and belies a culture of blaming homeless people for their situation. […]

The day after the law passed on Nov. 11, a citizen group called Börtön helyett lakhatást (Housing, Not Prison) organized a sit-in protest in Máté Kocsis' mayor's office. (The mayor of District VIII is also the referee of the homeless issues to the governing party in Parliament.) About 30 protesters were arrested by the police and interrogated until late night.

Kettős Mérce live-blogged [hu] the events at the office and shared a photo gallery of the sit-in. news site's video of the sit-in and the arrests with English subtitles is here.

A week later, a silent protest was organized [hu] in front of the Parliament. A photo gallery of Kettős Mérce is here. A ‘counter-post' [hu] was published on Mandiner, also with a photo gallery of the same event.

Börtön helyett lakhatást group called for solidarity with the homeless by staying on the streets of Budapest on the night when the regulation is coming into effect. (Night of Solidarity Facebook event - hu)

KA Steve, an activist known for hacking the District VIII regulation, blogged this on Kettős Mérce [hu], stating that the modification will fail because citizens finally have to stand up and say no:

[…] From Dec. 1, 2011, thousands of innocent people may be sent to prison. This is not about disputable stances, abstract political questions, smaller or bigger shady dealings, ridiculous paintings [referring to the new Hungarian constitution which has been illustrated with paintings ordered by the special commissioner of the Prime Minister], and it's not even about social justice. It can't be repeated enough times: this is about the fact that innocent citizens may be sent to prison.

And this is our responsibility. Years later, our grandchildren will ask what we have done, but it's eventually us who will have to account for our conscience. And saying “I ‘liked' the news” or “commented on them” won't be a satisfying feeling. […]

Today the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) started a campaign [hu] against the modification of the law, calling citizens to write protest letters to the Minister of the Interior and to Máté Kocsis, the referee of the homeless issues. The campaign goes with this video that compares the price of two nights spent at luxurious Budapest hotels to the price of spending two nights on a public bench. It should not be evident, but, of course, the latter one is more expensive.

October 24 2011

October 22 2011

Hungary: Oct. 23 Opposition Rally

Hungarian Spectrum and The Contrarian Hungarian write about the Oct. 23 anti-government rally, organized through a Facebook community called Egymillióan a magyar sajtószabadságért [hu; 88,272 ‘likes']/One Million for the Freedom of Press in Hungary [en; 720 ‘likes'] - and about a pro-government rally, which was scheduled to take place on the same day some 700 meters away from the opposition rally, but was cancelled on Oct. 17, allegedly due to PM Viktor Orbán's Oct. 23 visit to Brussels.

October 15 2011

Hungary: “How Many Policemen Does It Take to Arrest A Homeless Person?”

“How Many Policemen Does It Take to Arrest a Homeless Person?” was the title of a recent post [hu] on Kettős Mérce blog [Double Standard], which included a video showing eight policemen arresting a homeless man in the District VIII of Budapest.

In fact, it was Attila Kopiás, blogging under the name of KA_Steve [hu], who pretended to be homeless and, with the help of Kettős Mérce's bloggers, recorded what happened after they had called the police and reported that there was a homeless person on a bench of a District VIII square.

The issue generated a huge debate after the mayor of the district, through a referendum, had banned homeless people from public spaces in September. Bloggers followed the cases happening in District VIII and published an order [hu] prosecuting a homeless man for “sitting on the stone with some of his fellows.”

The regulation literally forbids “staying in public space as a lifestyle.” Attila Kopiás told the bloggers of Kettős Mérce in an interview that he tried not to lie to the police, so when they asked him if he stayed at a public place “as a lifestyle” he replied that “it had happened before that I slept in a public place”.

He told Kettős Mérce:

[…] I didn't have any elaborate strategy, I was simply disgusted by the fact that people are not punished for their acts but for their condition. The idea came from me feeling an urge to do something against this unfair system. In addition to this, my mind was not able to accept that in 2011, in Hungary, it can happen that one can be arrested and handcuffed for notorious sitting/lying on a bench. […] I reckoned with nobody taking care of me, and I simply wanted to see what really happens. […]

Commenting on the action, KA_Steve raised the question of what differentiates someone having a picninc at a public space from a homeless. Reflecting this, a version of ‘Picnic in May' - originally a painting by a 19th-century Hungarian artist - started to circulate on Facebook, published originally by the Tumblr user Prolidepp.

KA_Steve called for action on his blog [hu], sharing legal ways to protest the regulation that punishes those who live on the streets, move a trash can or engage in begging.

Attila wrote this [hu] on Kettős Mérce:

[…] But I want them [the homeless] to know there are people who stand up for them. The way we all want someone to stand up for us when we are in trouble.

October 09 2011

Croatia: Court Forbids Homophobic Priest From Blogging

Serbia Insajd, a Hungarian blog about South-Eastern Europe, reports [hu] that the Rijeka Court has banned Franjo Jurčević, a Kastav-based Catholic priest, from writing homophobic blog posts [Jurčević's blog, hr:]. The court has also ordered Jurčević to publish the court decision in two national dailies at his own expense.

June 01 2011

Hungary: A Picnic for Democracy

Authors of Kettős Mérce (”Double Standard”) blog held a ‘picnic for democracy‘ [hu] last Sunday in the capital of Hungary. They also shared a video from the event, which was organized in solidarity with the recent protests in Spain.

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