“The militarisation of Hungarian society is growing. Orbán’s view of soldiers is that they should create a sense of security among people,” explains Márton Gergely, the deputy editor-in-chief of the Hungarian independent weekly called HVG, reports Visegrad Insight.
According to him, military patrols in Budapest with camouflage uniforms and machine guns began after the terrorist attacks in Europe in recent years. Added to this was the migration crisis in 2015, which put certain areas of Hungary in a state of emergency, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, and allowed the border army to patrol alongside the police.
One of the risks according to Gergely is that under the pretext of fighting the pandemic, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will be able to enforce completely different, fundamental measures for his own benefit, such as in the area of justice.
“Perhaps the controversial reform of the judiciary, which Orbán withdrew a year ago – probably because unlike he had imagined, he failed in the elections. There is now a risk that the emergency measures will bring these reforms after all. And that the rules for the appointment of judges will change right away, which would break down one of the last obstacles facing Orbán today, that is the middle class of the Hungarian judiciary so to speak, ” warns Gergely.
As a journalist from independent media, he represents a minority in Hungary. And it is difficult to get information from the Hungarian government or other authorities.
“In early March, the government introduced a daily briefing with police officers, epidemiologists, and members of the government. The independent media was also there, but interestingly, the pro-government media sometimes asked important and relevant questions. The Hungarian government initially failed in ‘message control’ and the government media did not know what the ‘right questions’ were, and thus simply asked normal journalistic questions,” says Gergely.
Gergely describes a dead-end which the Hungarian independent media are repeatedly facing.
Supplies of protective equipment from China are currently heading to Hungary. “In the last issue of our weekly, we have an article about how the state buys protective equipment and tests from China for millions of euros through a Hungarian-Chinese company that nobody knew before last year and which belongs to Chinese living in Hungary,” says Gergely. Hungarians are not very interested.
“Orbán himself welcomed a plane with assistance supplies from China at the airport and took a picture of how he is talking to Chinese pilots without a respirator,” he describes scenes similar to those from the airport in Prague.
Reporters recalled that over the past fifteen years or so, the Hungarian health sector has undergone repeated restructuring, with aims that were often contradicting each other. Epidemiology has also been severely affected by the departure of a number of experts. This weakens the country’s ability to face a pandemic.
All investigative documentation is also characteristic of contemporary Hungary in the way Hungarian politicians and officials – both former and contemporary – deal with journalists’ questions. Nobody answered their questions.
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