On April 27, 2020, during the first wave of the coronavirus I drew a cartoon about Cecília Müller, the chief medical officer of Hungary, who is looking at a crucifix saying:
Alapbetegsége His underlying disease
Függőséget addiction / hanging /dependence
/In Hungarian the word “függőség” means addiction and comes from the root “függ” which means both hanging and depending./
The head of the Hungarian epidemiological authority is not only a doctor but also a Catholic secular pastor. A few days after the publication, the smaller ruling Christian Democratic People’s Party and the media of the government provoked a huge indignation, stigmatizing my caricature as anti-Christian. A “Christian defender” portal launched a petition against the drawing and the “left-wing media”. Several pro-government politicians promised to sue.
In Hungary the situation of the media is particular, its democratic institutions still remain, but the government ousted the “unfaithful” people, and expropriated most of the media. So if they mark someone as an enemy, a very intense total fire rushes at them.
The televisions, radios, newspapers and portals all roared that I insulted every Christian. The wave of threats and abuses ran through social media, too. There was a radio who turned to its listeners with a call saying that if someone knows my address, they should send it in, because I am “wanted” by some people, and certainly there was a paramilitary organisation offering for the mission. No physical violence took place however. Despite the innumerable publications, the moral panic provoked from above exhausted by the end of May.
That might have been the reason why in early June another drawing of mine attracted attention. A Christian Democrat politician threatened my newspaper, Népszava saying: “Népszabadság also made a joke and ceased, Népszava is getting ready.” Népszabadság was a daily newspaper bought and shut down by the media-group of the government in 2016. And this other cartoon of mine was made for the centenary of the Trianon Treaty. This treaty is an aching memory for the nationalist Hungarians. It strongly connects the Hungarians on the two sides of the new borders defined by the treaty. Revisionist politics though spinned the country into tragic war and is poisoning the peaceful relations with the surrounding countries for a hundred years now. During the next few days a new coordinated media fire rushed at me, however its effect was much smaller and it went down soon. It seems that in “anti-nationality” there is not as much mobilizing force as in “blasphemy”.
The story could have ended here, but in November the cartoonists of the biggest Hungarian journalist organisation (MÚOSZ) voted my “anti-Christian” drawing for the caricature of year 2020. So in December a new attack ran through the government’s propaganda machinery. Similar in level to the one during the spring. The target this time was not only me, but the organisation of the journalists, too.
In January, 2021 it turned out that another Christian Democrat leader Imre Vejkey, the chairman of the parliamentary committee on justice, achieved that the court discussed my “anti-Christian” drawing. I got to know about it only after the trial, because Mr Vejkey losing the case started a new press campaign, now including also the “liberal” courts as target. It was an easy job for him not only because of the support of the government’s media but also because a judge is not to make statements about their own cases. However in this case the court itself made a press release correcting the desinformation made by Mr Vejkey about the verdict. But Mr Vejkey didn’t settle with it, he visited the leaders of the Hungarianc churches and made them sign a statement condemning blasphemy. From historical and neoprotestant Christian churches, through Jewish organizations, till Muslim churches were amongst those who signed this statement. So Mr Vejkey with this joint statement in his hand could now declare to the press with self-confidence that this drawing is not funny as the court said, but it is definitely insulting to all the churches. But he remained silent about the fact that the statement didn’t name my cartoon in question, so there were religious leaders not even knowing for what purpose their signatures were to be used.
Meanwhile a former press lawsuit had come to its end, the verdict of the supreme court stated that my colleague Árpád Tóta W. violated the pursuers’ rights when using insulting comments on “the Hungarians”. From now on anyone can launch a lawsuit as the member of a community if not liking an opinion. Mr Tóta can be sued by “Hungarians’, as I can be by “Christians”. With success. THere are a very few institutions remaining independent in Hungary, the government now is to liquidate the independence of the courts. The longer the lawsuit, the worse our chances. Time doesn’t work for us.
Népszava, my newspaper is the only remaining oppositional daily newspaper, with the largest number of copies. Its editorial is independent, but its publisher is under the influence of the economic position of the government in the Hungarian media market. So the publisher can be afraid of losing the lawsuit, but might be more afraid of winning it. A chilling effect of freedom of press and speech...
As depressing as the government’s media predominance is, the independent speakers interfere with the propaganda of power. Only if none of us remain, then it can be said
from Orwell’s 1984 novel:
“Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth.”
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