Budapest, Hungary – A 64-year old Hungarian man was taken into custody, accused of spreading fake news, after a Facebook post, in which he called Viktor Orban a “Dictator” and “a cruel despot”, questioned the government’s plans to lift curfew restrictions.
András, who lives near Szerecsen in the Hungarian countryside, was greeted by seven police officers at 6am on May 12 and detained regarding his April 28 post, which had received 19 comments and been shared 11 times.
The crime he was accused: spreading fake news during the coronavirus pandemic. He has since then been released.
Hungarian man criticizes Orban on Facebook: “Dear Dictator, dear Leader”
In his Facebook post (see full post below), addressed to “our dear Dictator, our dear Leader”, András questioned the Hungarian government’s plans to lift curfew restrictions on May 4, when it had earlier announced that the projected peak of the pandemic would occur on May 3. Concerned that this could lead to mass infections, he pleaded with “the Dictator” he calls “a cruel despot” not to lift curfew restrictions and “send thousands to their deaths”.
Upon his release, András recounted the interrogation to 444. “They wanted to know who the dictator was that I referred to in my post, I told them their task had achieved its result and would probably shut me up”, he said.
András identified himself as the author of the Facebook post. “I did not deny it, I accept responsibility for it, because there is nothing in it that hinders combating the virus. Its not fake news, there isn’t even news in it. Its a sort of philosophical deduction”, he added.
According to 444, after the interrogation, the police released András and informed him that no charges would be pressed as there was no crime committed.
Fake news and the fight against coronavirus
When the Hungarian Parliament passed the “enabling law”, which allowed Viktor Orbán’s government to rule by decree indefinitely, the Parliament also passed a law intended to stop to spread of fake news.
The law specified that anyone spreading information that might hinder the government’s efforts to combat coronavirus could face time in prison. Critics highlighted at the time that the law was vague and could easily be abused. hungarian man orban facebook
Last week, after falling to its lowest ever position in the latest World Press Freedom Index, Hungary also slipped out of Freedom House’s list of democracies to become a transitional/hybrid regime in its annual Nations in Transit report, in which it calls the country’s emergency bill a “completely disproportionate and coercive measure”.
The story of András arguably illustrates the everyday consequences of such a slip.
Full transcript of András’ Facebook post:
“Come on! I must ask. The peak of something, a flood, a pandemic, a recession, anything which can peak, this means that it has reached its highest point? It’s at its worst. In the case of the coronavirus, this means that this is when the highest number of infectious people are in Hungary? Is that how it works? According to how I see it, if I leave my house during the peak, this is when there is the highest chance that I will meet someone who has the virus. Do you also see it this way? I am asking because they assume we are so dumb, that I’m starting to believe it. If my interpretation is wrong, please call me and idiot and I will accept it. BUT! If I understand things correctly, there is a problem. Dear leader, who never makes mistakes, never lies and who announced, with input from experts, that on May 3rd the pandemic will peak and that on May 4th, the stay at home orders will be loosened.
Will the loosening be effective for everyone? Or just the pensioners, who are a burden to the budget of the government? Because then I understand it. In fact, going to church should be mandatory, the pensioners clubs and attending large events. But if the loosening of restrictions is applicable to everyone, I don’t understand it. We can move more freely with greater risk. Then why did we have to suffer at home till now?
Dear Dictator, dear leader! I ask you, please do not send the masses to my street. Just because you have announced something which makes you more popular, and you cannot modify it because holding onto power is your only goal, don’t send thousands to their deaths. By not giving out official data (about the pandemic), and instead giving data about the reduction of the pandemic, thousands will die. Anyone who shares data counter to this, will face sanctions. Health workers can not longer give statements to the press. Spreading fake news (or the truth) can land you in jail. The death toll of the second wave of the Spanish flu far surpassed the first wave.
We know that you do not care about our fate, our death. You don’t give a shit. I do not know what your soul or heart is made of. You are a cruel despot, but dictators always fall.”
By Viktor Mák
Born in Jászberény in the Hungarian countryside, Viktor studied and worked in the United States. He recently returned to Hungary and finished a degree in Public Administration at the Central European University. During the day, he works in political communication. In his free time busies himself with activism fighting for a quality, well funded and accessible education system in Hungary. Check out his latest articles right here!