A column by Stefan J. Bos (pictured)
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife-Columns)– Curious Westerners often travel days to autocratic Central Asian nations of the former Soviet Union. They no longer have to go that far. On New Year’s Day, Hungary becomes ‘Orbanistan’.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his rightist government will control all Hungarian media. His media council can fine broadcasters nearly $1 million dollars and websites or newspapers over $100,000 if their political coverage is deemed unbalanced or unmoral.
And, Orban’s hand-picked officials are the nation’s editors. They ensure that key news programs dedicate maximum 20 percent of their air time to crime stories. If there’s breaking news, presenters soon have a problem. “Sorry we interrupt our coverage on the serial killers being detained and quickly move to traffic and weather…We’re over our 20 percent…”
It’s not just media. Orban and his cronies already supervise key financial institutions, including the State Audit Office. They have changed the constitution so Orbanistan’s Constitutional Court no longer issues rulings on budget matters. It allows them to nationalize billions of dollars in private pensions of millions of Hungarians.
The Orban administration effectively turns the clock back over 20 years when Hungary was still a Communist state. Ironically, in 1989, the young ambitious Orban publicly demanded that the Soviet Union’s Red Army leaves Hungary. Now we learn why. To make way for him and an army of Orban loyalists, united in his Fidesz party, with its trademark orange colors.
The recently elected, Oxford educated, Orban may have received his inspiration from Animal Farm, written by late British writer George Orwell. He writes about animals taking over a farm thinking it will be the start of a better life. Their dreams of a world where all animals will be equal, and all properties shared, turn into a nightmare. Soon the pigs take control and one of them, Napoleon, becomes the leader of everyone.
One by one the principles of the revolution are abandoned. Until the animals have even less freedom than before. Orwell’s book remains more actual than ever. In the words of author and philosopher Agnes Heller: “Orban wants to become the chief of the tribe.”
The European Union will never be the same. Orbanistan takes over the rotating E.U. presidency on January 1. Hundreds of millions of Europeans will wake up in a Union chaired by a country that Luxembourg compares to Belarus, Europe’s last dictatorship.
Orbanistan’s mustached Foreign Minister, Janos Martonyi, isn’t worried. He says it doesn’t matter where he and his colleagues stand on E.U. family photo’s.
The question is: Do E.U. leaders want to be pictured, smiling and handshaking, with autocratic Orban and his comrades? Some are not awaiting the answer. “My friends are planning to leave Hungary, just as many young people,” says a charming, young female reporter of Budapest’s Info Radio.
Except from angry statements, concerned youngsters receive little support from European officials who seem more concerned about wine and cheese imports than the benefits of democratic values. They currently indulge themselves in long holidays.
Sleep well, Europe.
(BUDAPEST BRAINWAVE is a regular opinionated column of BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos on key developments in Hungary, where BosNewsLife is based. The column was launched following international concerns over a fresh crackdown on new-found freedoms in the region. Opinions of BosNewsLife-Columns do not necessarily reflect the views of online news agency BosNewsLife or its parent with the same name. If you like to support this project you can donate via http://bosnewslife.com/donations