Budapest, Hungary – A cartoon, published by Slovenian weekly Mladina and featuring Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban performing a Nazi salute, has sparked a diplomatic crisis between the two EU member states.
Published on the cover of liberal and left-wing weekly Mladina – one of the most-read outlets in Slovenia – on March 22, the cartoon shows Viktor Orban doing a Nazi salute and right-wing Slovenian politicians from the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) hugging a towering Hungarian PM.
According to the Slovenian reporters, the cover aimed to condemn the de-facto allegiance and subordination of the SDS party to Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party. Chaired by former Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša, SDS last month threatened to quit the European People’s Party (EPP) if Orban’s Fidesz was expelled from the EU’s biggest political grouping.
The cartoon failed to amuse Hungarian authorities, who officially protested against the portrayal in a letter to Mladina and a diplomatic note sent by the Hungarian embassy in Ljubljana to the Slovenian Foreign Ministry to “prevent similar incidents to happen in the future”. Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs later described the cartoon as “another unfortunate example of the intolerance of today’s left”.
On Friday, Slovenia’s Foreign Ministry brushed off the Hungarian authorities’ protests, arguing that it “strictly respects the principle of freedom of the press and would never interfere in any of the media’s editorial policy”.
In an op-ed published on Friday, Mladina didn’t back down from its controversial cover and took it up a notch, denouncing the Hungarian government’s attempt to influence and interfere in Slovenian politics and media. The popular weekly attacked Janez Janša’s party for “following Hungarian political interests”.
“Through the SDS, the Hungarian state has acquired part of the Slovenian media, which are now associated into a Hungarian national propaganda company”, the editorial board of Mladina wrote, adding: “A country which dares to demand from another country’s government to act against journalists means a serious security threat to the entire region”.