In a letter addressed to the editor of The Guardian, Zoltán Kovács, the state secretary for international communications and relations, said a recent article in the paper claiming the Hungarian government was dismantling media freedom and judicial independence “simply doesn’t square with the reality of today’s Hungary”.
The author of the June 20 article, Oxford University historian Timothy Garton Ash, had accused Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of having “effectively demolished the independence of the judiciary” and said much of the country’s media had been consolidated in a “pro-government cartel”.
In his letter, Kovács said news portals critical of the government had a larger readership than pro-government ones.
Critical voices, he said, also had a “dominant audience share” on TV, the medium through which he said 71 percent of Hungarians got their news.
Responding to Garton Ash’s criticisms of the state of judicial independence in Hungary, Kovács said Hungary’s judicial reforms had been “thoroughly reviewed by the EU and the Venice Commission and all questions were resolved”.
The state secretary said Garton Ash’s “ideological convictions” were contradicted by facts such as that voter participation in Hungary has been going up, not down. Kovács said that since 2010, the number of marriages had risen, while the number of divorces was down.
The number of abortions, he said, was down by nearly a third, with the birth rate rising and the employment rate among women “at an all-time high”.
Kovács said Hungary’s 5 percent GDP growth rate was the highest in the EU. “Unemployment has dropped to historic levels. Interest rates remain low, and real wages are growing,” he wrote. “Hungarians who left following the 2008 financial crisis are now returning in far greater numbers.”