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Hungary: Right-wing media spreads ‘fake news’ linking missing CEU student to coronavirus

Budapest, Hungary – As previously reported, Raza Khan, a Pakistani master’s student at the Central European University, has been missing in Budapest since March 2, 2020. fake news coronavirus

While there have been no officially confirmed news regarding his situation, the government-related, right-wing online news platform Pesti Srácok claims that Khan could be a potential “carrier of the coronavirus”, and has gone missing in order to avoid being put in quarantine. 

Based on their alleged sources, Khan left his apartment and “has chosen illegality” shortly after having been in contact with the Irani students infected with the coronavirus who were later expelled from Hungary along with other Irani citizens. While the article suggests that Raza Khan went missing once he realised that his friends were sick, the date he was last seen precedes the date when the two students in question have become the first confirmed cases of coronavirus in Hungary. The assertion that Khan was in close contact with the two Iranians remains equally dubious. 

Comments under the article, such as ‘CEU students are taught that they are made from a different material, common rules don’t apply to them’, or that ‘the virus doesn’t work on CEU students’ further contribute to the conspiratorial and hostile, migrant- and Soros-bashing tone of the article. 

With unclear sources and false facts, the article can be seen as a classic example of Hungarian government-generated fake news. The government’s monopoly on spreading panic is evident: while people are arrested on the streets of Budapest for making Youtube videos about coronavirus-related fake-news, Fidesz-related media sources are encouraged to do so. Not to mention the potential danger that Raza Khan faces when found, due to the hostility built up against him by the government’s propaganda machine.

Raza Khan, a Pakistani master’s student at the Central European University, has been missing in Budapest since March 2, 2020. 

CEU has released a statement denouncing the article in question, stating that “CEU has seen no evidence whatsoever that Raza has been infected with the virus and urges the media not to give publicity to unsubstantiated rumors”. The Student Union demands that the relevant authorities take action by ordering the story to be taken down and holding the individuals behind the websites accountable.

In a further email sent out to the CEU community, rector Michael Ignatieff mentions that Raza’s parents has flown to Budapest from Pakistan to look for their son. Ignatieff warns that these “untruthful news reports” are made to “distract us” from what is at stake here: the safe return of a missing person. 

While the situation of Raza Khan remains undetermined, it becomes clear that the government’s tactics of spreading fear have not changed at all. By implicitly warning people against the potential ‘threat’ of the invisible presence of an immigrant, infectious Other amongst Hungarians, the Fidesz government does not take a break from enemy-making even in times of real emergency.

By Zsofi Borsi

A Budapest-born politics and economics graduate of Durham University, UK, Zsofi Borsi wrote her thesis on conspiracy theories present in Hungarian online political discourse. She currently pursues her graduate studies at Central European University in Budapest and Vienna. Zsofi has worked as an intern at various political and non-governmental organisations in Hungary, such as Political Capital Research and Consultancy Institute, Tom Lantos Institute or Klubrádió. To check out her latest articles, it’s right here!

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