“Has Viktor Orbán killed democracy in Hungary?” these were the line the programme UpFront of Al-Jazeera started on April 9th with. Within the framework of the programme, Marc Lamont Hill interviewed Hungary’s Secretary of State for International Communication and Relations Zoltán Kovács about several issues at hand.
In the first point, Hill asked what was the reason behind Hungary’s decision to start easing restrictions and going against the opinion of many doctors, even though the death rate of the pandemic in Hungary is among the highest. In his answer Zoltán Kovács talked about the different nature of the third wave and that Hungary is applying a different tactic. Hill cited the Vice President of the Hungarian Labour Unit of Doctors:
“Doctors find it incomprehensible how there can be a communication about a reopening so soon just when we should be talking about tightening how to improve existing curbs”
Hill suggests that the Hungarian government does not follow the opinion of healthcare workers. Zoltán Kovács emphasized in his answer that in their response, the government does not only take into account the healthcare sector but other sectors as well. Hungary needs to “reignite” the economy to help those who lost their jobs or about to and also to improve the mental health of people who have not been able to conduct their life normally; cannot go to work or school for any reasons.
The interviewer steers the questions in the direction of free media in Hungary, highlighting that the Hungarian government does not let non-state media outlets into hospitals to report about the handling of the pandemic.
Zoltán Kovács defends their position by pointing out that they inform the public in outlets that have been used since the pandemic, such as the public service radio and television giving reports on a daily basis. Marc Lamont Hill challenges the Hungarian secretary by asking why Hungary has been accused of controlling almost its entire domestic media. Zoltán denies the accusations and explains that it is part of a political game from the Hungarian domestic opposition and that there are no real lawful grounds for the accusations.
Hill asks another pressing matter about the compromise of human rights as he reads out that Hungary has used its emergency powers to pass a law criminalising criticism of the government’s response to the pandemic, put a total ban on protests, it ended the legal recognition for trans people and had banned same-sex couples from adopting children.
Zoltán Kovács answered with parallels to Western and other global countries having similar measures to stop the spreading of fake news and the help of handling of the pandemic situation.
The interview goes through with the question of whether Hungary abides by one of the European Union’s core values, the Rule of Law. Zoltán Kovács highlights that no accusations towards Hungary have been proven and argues that the freedom of Hungarians has not been corrupted.
The interview goes on into other issues for the remainder of the programme. If you would like to watch it yourself, you can do so here:
Featured image: Still from YouTube video