BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS

EUROPE'S BAD BOYS

August 07, 2020 Dana Lewis Season 1 Episode 21
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
EUROPE'S BAD BOYS
Chapters
00:11:40
Veronika Monk, Fmr Dep. Editor Index
00:15:36
Gabor Polyak , Mertek
00:26:24
Katalin Cseh, Member EU Parliament Hungary
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
EUROPE'S BAD BOYS
Aug 07, 2020 Season 1 Episode 21
Dana Lewis

Authoritarian Governments are strangling media freedoms in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.  Hungary, Poland, The Czech Republic and Slovenia all have Governments choking free speech.   

In July 80 journalists quit the last independent media platform in Hungary because they knew they could not report freely anymore. 

Why doesn't The European Union (of which these Countries are members) force Government's to respect freedoms that are the cornerstone of EU principles?

Host and Creator of Back Story Dana Lewis talks to The Fmr. Deputy Editor of Hungary's Index Veronika Monk.    Also, Gabor Polyak from Mertek Media think tank. 
And, Hungary's Member of the EU Parliament Katalin Cseh.

American's should remember how important press freedoms are for democracies and the stories coming from Eastern Europe are a chilling reminder how fragile our system is, especially with a President like Donald Trump.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Authoritarian Governments are strangling media freedoms in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.  Hungary, Poland, The Czech Republic and Slovenia all have Governments choking free speech.   

In July 80 journalists quit the last independent media platform in Hungary because they knew they could not report freely anymore. 

Why doesn't The European Union (of which these Countries are members) force Government's to respect freedoms that are the cornerstone of EU principles?

Host and Creator of Back Story Dana Lewis talks to The Fmr. Deputy Editor of Hungary's Index Veronika Monk.    Also, Gabor Polyak from Mertek Media think tank. 
And, Hungary's Member of the EU Parliament Katalin Cseh.

American's should remember how important press freedoms are for democracies and the stories coming from Eastern Europe are a chilling reminder how fragile our system is, especially with a President like Donald Trump.

Speaker 1:

So do you believe that the government moved to put a stranglehold on index? Uh , I am absolutely sure that there was the government's decision. Our governments hate this caution . Other government hates debate.

Dana Lewis:

Hi everyone. And welcome to another edition of backstory podcast. I'm your host and the creator of backstory Dana Lewis. This is our 21st edition and you've covered Brexit, lots of science on COVID-19 nuclear arms, the upcoming American election police brutality and racism, defunding police. And even our last addition tackled the conspiracies of Q Anon. And now the bad boys of Europe. Why are they bad? And who are they? Well, I'm talking about Hungary and Poland, which as many of us are consumed with the pandemic and the American election. These countries led by right wing leaders, seize more power going against Western Europe's common values of free and fair elections, independent judges, tolerance of minorities and press freedom . It is a swing to the right, and the EU seems to be failing, to keep hungry and polling from drifting into an alarming direction towards autocracies Poland. For instance, just had an election and wants to now pull out of the treaty on domestic abuse. It's against gay rights. Hungary's Viktor Orban has been squeezing press freedoms for a decade, modeling himself after Russia's Vladimir Putin. So if somebody is not ,

Viktor Orban:

Except the rule of law should leave the European union immediately , like it should not be punished by money or something. I've got to say goodbye, say worldwide guys , because this community is based on rule of law. And we like that approach it's okay.

Dana Lewis:

That was Orban at a recent EU summit, hoping for a big COVID-19 bailout saying he supports the rule of law. When his critics in Hungary say he's been doing everything to hijack the courts and free media. So why just as the European union government is doling out billions of dollars to rescue economies from pandemic economic collapse, didn't it demand that Poland and Hungary get in line with common values of free society. The EU is rotting from the inside, say some Western newspaper headlines. Now I know you're distracted with a lot right now, but look, this is important. We are witnessing the return of Soviet style leaders who are muzzling free press. The media has become the propaganda tools of Hungary and Poland, authoritarian governments, and that's dangerous. And that's where we know recently the last independent media in hungry it's called index collapsed in July more than 80 journalists walked out because they could no longer report freely. No one wants to out of a job right Now. So that's noteworthy the last door on free speech in hungry slam shut. And I bet you didn't even hear about it. Alright . Veronica monk joins us now from Budapest and Veronica was the deputy editor of index. Hi, Veronica, how are you doing?

Veronika Monk:

Hi. Wow , I'm fine. It's quite hard days, but I try to keep it together.

Dana Lewis:

Not too many people walk out of a job in the middle of a pandemic. Tell me what happened.

Veronika Monk:

I haven't been working here at index, which is the market leading online news daily in Hungary , uh , in the last 18 years. It's quite a long time. I started as an intern and now I'm the, or I was the deputy editor in chiefs until I quit. I quit because , uh, because , uh , I saw that there are external influence on the professional work and profession in independent work that we are doing. And I could because , uh, editor-in-chief was fired last week. Uh, and , uh, yeah, and almost, almost the whole newsroom with it's quite a large newsroom with around 90 editors and journalists. Uh, I think they are the biggest newsroom in Hungary and the around 70, 80 , uh, journalists and editors quit on Friday or

Dana Lewis:

So. What is the point of walking out? What do you gain or it just became impossible to work under the current conditions.

Veronika Monk:

Yeah, I mean, I cannot speak in the name of other 80 people. I can speak in the name of myself and I didn't think about the future when I quit . I told that it's not, it's unacceptable what this happening. And , and I quit because I told that I cannot continue the professional and independent work that I have been doing in the last 20 years. Yes, it's , it's an uncertainty. I have two little kids and we are during the pandemic and I don't know what's going to happen, but I really sad that this was a red line land was crossed

Speaker 3:

Very serious decision personally, as did those 80 people at index. So could you give me an example of where you said it became impossible that you simply couldn't work? I mean, aside from the firing of the editor, I mean, what kind of information were you unable to suddenly put out?

Veronika Monk:

Um , just a little bit of background about index. Okay. So index was considered the last major independent outlet in Hungary in the country, which is ranked the second worst country in the EU for media freedom by reporters, without borders. Uh, and so people are independent. And in the, in the last 10 years, the media environment changed in Hungary and a lot of media companies , uh, somehow , uh, influential by a businessman who implanted or owned by businessman who strongly connected to the fetus government. So there is this media landscape where , uh, where there are a strong political influence or media companies. So that's why a couple of years ago index , uh, uh, the, the, the , the newsroom, the staff of index stated what, according to us, what are the conditions of the independent operation of independent journalism? And we had two main conditions, then there cannot be external influence on the content we publish. And there cannot be external incidence on the structure of our spouse. And the last condition , uh, uh, was harmed , uh , when the editor in chief was fired. And the other thing is that a month ago, the board of index took, took steps towards , uh , the transformation and fragmentation of index. And there were some external advisors who, who suggested to outsource , uh, the journalists and editors to external companies , uh, because

Speaker 3:

What does that mean? I mean, translate that, you know, that ,

Speaker 4:

I mean, I mean, I just, again , stay at what this advisor stated. He said that it would be , um, the goal of this outsourcing would be, would have been the same for the savings. So because there is a pandemic

Speaker 3:

In reality, in reality, what , what did , what did they say ?

Veronika Monk:

My opinion is that it would be really, really dangerous because if it's an external , uh , company structure than companies with political or business agenda could reach out to, to the, to the, to the front page of the newspaper.

Speaker 3:

Could I say , I sense all of this leads back to prime minister, Victor, or , or bond, right. And his control of media , um, what is he trying to control? What is he trying to stop you from from saying

Speaker 4:

You should ask him? I mean,

Speaker 3:

No . I mean, because it's important for a Western audience, that's not being hungry. That, I mean, you're saying this is about censorship. You're saying this is about strangling freedom of speech. I mean, can you give me any instance where let's take COVID-19 for example, mr. Orban has declared a state of emergency for as long as he sees fit and punishes, those who distort or publish false information on the outbreak with five years in jail. I mean, what does that mean? Is he just trying to silence the free press from reporting the extent of the pandemic and hungry ?

Speaker 4:

I don't know. What is mr. Or band's agenda? I can talk about indexes case and I can talk about my situation. Uh, I don't want to talk , uh , about the political situation I can, I can,

Speaker 3:

That's a dangerous thing to do in hungry for you personally, if you were to criticize the prime minister.

Speaker 4:

No, not at all. Not at all. I mean, look, the problem is you asked an interview from me about the situation of index, and now you asked me to talk about the Hungarian politics, right?

Speaker 3:

Well , I'm asking, they're obviously connected. I mean, you're saying you're unable to publish freely. You're unable to talk about, I'm asking you what

Speaker 4:

I didn't say. I never said that there were no influence on the content we publish. I said that were external influence on the structure of the newsroom index voice independent for 20 years

Speaker 3:

When they started to restructure that that would affect your freedom .

Speaker 4:

Yes. And that's why , that's why I quit because I didn't, because I, I was, I found the danger that the independency gonna change,

Speaker 3:

What are they trying to stop? What are they trying to silence? That's what I'm specifically asking, because I don't understand, is it criticism of the government? Is it

Veronika Monk:

It's index is not an opposition. A newspaper index is a critical newspaper. And I don't like the label that , that you are the opposition of media, because that's what the government try to label us. And I always, I don't like when people call me or call my colleagues, the opposition of journalists, because we are not one , I have been working here almost 20 years. And when the other government , uh , was , uh , leading the country index was critical back then as well. So it's a critical newspaper. We are doing the traditional vet dog function of , uh, the media. Uh, and we are big. So we can be a danger because this is a 10 million, 10 million people living in Hungary. And then that had a one to 1.5 million readers per day. It it's quite a big , uh , big audience and these weren't controlled , you know, that's what that's, that's that can be understand in, in, in the States too, then

Speaker 3:

Who would you be a danger to?

Speaker 4:

And anybody else, the politics, the businessman , uh, the money people, the power, the power.

Speaker 3:

So that's what I'm asking you is your , I didn't really ask you to talk about politics, but it's part of it, isn't it. And , uh, when you're being, when you're being silenced, there's somebody politically that doesn't want you to report what, and as a , if you're sitting in,

Speaker 4:

I say it again, then, so index never experienced a silencing because we were independent. We quit because we felt that this era has ended.

Dana Lewis:

You agree that prime minister or ban has tried to silence media in Hungary.

Veronika Monk:

It's a really hard position that you are trying to put in me. And I don't, I don't want to answer that because I'm an independent journalist and I'm not a political activist. And I don't want to talk about , uh , my opinion regarding [inaudible] . I can say what's happening in index. And I can say that the Hungarian media landscape is strongly, very strongly connected to the government sometimes to the prime minister, sometimes strong allies to the prime minister. That's the correct answer.

Dana Lewis:

Okay . Tell somebody living in London, tell somebody from New York, why does it matter if some online news site called index , uh, disappears in the middle of the night and the journalists walk out what is at stake and hungry

Speaker 4:

People in Hungary is in sheep . They , they fear, they fear their, their existence. They fear their, their lives. And usually they don't stand up against power and maybe they did that, and that hurts so much. They get together. And we did, we did it like 80 of us, and it's a huge mess and people doesn't see, don't see things like this in Hungary, where they're 80 people show the finger against the power.

Dana Lewis:

I was a correspondent in Moscow for American television. So president Yeltsin went out in 2000. President Putin came to power and suddenly we could see as independent journalists, we could see media that was not completely free because some of them were controlled by different business interests, but they began to be closed down. They began to be taken back under control of the government and of the Kremlin and that slow creep, which happened over a few years, suddenly, no criticism

Speaker 5:

Of the Kremlin, no investigation of corruption in business. Um , it was really the end of this new democracy in Russia

Speaker 1:

And autocratic rule by the Kremlin. Are we seeing exactly the same parallel in Hungary now?

Veronika Monk:

Yes. But the thing is that there were no right , but that's the more important that you felt that was ending, you felt that was Veronica monk from Budapest,

Dana Lewis:

OPD editor of index. Thank you so much. Okay. So she seems intimidated and avoided seeing anything about Viktor Orban or the ruling political party that tells you a lot about how stifling rule has become in Hungary . That's a journalist who in my view explained very little but revealing to considering how little she felt she could. Let's talk to Gabor Polyak who is with Mirteck. And that is a media think tank in Hungary. I Gabor. How are you today?

Gabor Polyak:

Hi, good morning. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Why is the closing down of index important

Gabor Polyak:

Index is, and was , uh , firstly it was the biggest news portal in Hungary, and it is not only about the reach of index. It is only about that. Uh, they could reach not only one side of the Hungarian society , uh, indexes audience , uh , was not a political audience. It was not about , uh, that , uh , only the voters for the opposition parties rent , uh , index index was also information source for the government alters . And we don't have a lot of , uh, media outlets that can reach the whole society. Therefore , uh , index was really an important , uh , part of the Hungarian media system. So do you believe that the government moved to

Speaker 1:

Stranglehold on index

Gabor Polyak:

In the background? Uh, I am absolutely sure that there was the government's decision. Uh, it's not only a theory , uh , maybe, you know, that there was a very complicated , uh , ownership structure in the background of index, but , uh, yeah, the main point that the main decisions about the money, about the incomes and the main decisions about , um, the , the organization of index was in the hand of pro-government guys. Uh, and in the last last weeks , uh, the decision maker was one of the most important, one of the most powerful media guy of the governing party.

Dana Lewis:

What's the idea? What are they worried about? I mean, why are they closing down media?

Gabor Polyak:

Yeah. You know, we are struggling for media freedom since 2010 because , uh, yeah, the government is struggling for , uh , uh , public's fear where they have the vert and all other words , uh, are only how to say a footnote , uh, or , uh, can be , uh , incredible. Uh, and yeah, so our government , uh, heat this cation , our government hates debate. Uh, the only way how they can communicate is to speak out , uh, without any comments . Uh, and therefore they need a media system where the biggest media outlets are serving this kind of political communication, this kind of one way political communication , uh, all media outlets. They , uh, got in the last 10 years. And we are speaking about a big , uh , majority of the Hungarian media system. So they don't , uh, put questions. They don't put career questions, or even if they make interviews with our prime minister, these are not interviews in term in terms of , uh , Western Europe or in terms of the U S these are , uh , opportunities to, to speak out my , uh , opinion , uh, as, as the prime minister. So they, they needed this kind of media system and they tried from 2010 , uh, to , uh, to have , uh , even a smaller , uh , independent part of the media system , uh , once they tried to , to, to buy and to get old , uh, big media outlets. And otherwise they drive to, to make , uh , the independent media incredible , uh, to, to build up a picture that they are not , uh , trustworthy. I mean,

Dana Lewis:

Viktor Orban, the prime minister is supposed to be a tough guy, but he can't take a punch. He can't take a bit of criticism from the media?

Speaker 5:

Of course he can. I cannot say that the whole media system is four months . Uh, yeah. Uh, it is very important for our band to have critical media in Hungary. And yeah, if we are speaking about index, I am absolutely sure that that was not , uh, the plan to , to have this kind of , of a collapse of index day wanted to have index for a long time, but they wanted to have a more friendly index , uh , in the direction of the government. They didn't want

Dana Lewis:

Friendly, more controlled, more subservient?

Gabor Polyak:

Yeah. And it was not impossible. Uh , they had the control over the whole editorial board, the whole newsroom , and they had the control over the incomes. So they could fold that the journalists working for index will be able to have somehow cool , uh, collaborate with the government. And it was not about to publish only propaganda, like in other programs or men's media. It would be enough to not speak about the most critical issues for the government.

Speaker 3:

So let me ask you something philosophically, I mean, bigger picture. I was in Russia as a correspondent based for American television when Yeltsin left and president Putin came to power, and we saw exactly this slow takeover of media influence, change of structure, of ownership. Eventually they silenced critical media and every night, the voice of most of the main television channels get their marching orders from the Kremlin. Now you're seeing it in Poland. Um, you've seen it in, you know, media struggles in Georgia, in Hungary . So really the all across Eastern Europe, we are witnessing kind of the hard right. Silenced and critical media. It's very serious and it's still born democracies.

Gabor Polyak:

Yeah. I can only agree with the statement. Uh, and yeah, we could , uh , continue this list. And , uh , if , uh, the media system of the U S would not be so strong , uh, the intention of Trump would be the same, but , uh, the U S media system is an absolutely other story. Uh, fortunately what's , uh, is a very big difference between Poland Hungary on the one side and Georgia Russia Turkey on the other side, that we are members of the European union. And I think this is a very big , uh , mistake and a very, very big miss , uh , unsuccess of the European union.

Dana Lewis:

I really want to ask you about that because that's important, right? I mean, these, these countries, Poland and Hungary are, Russia's not, but pulling a hungry and members of the European union, the European union has addressed and acknowledged the fact that there is a pull to the right, and that the leadership in these countries is not allowing free and democratic press. They just had to come up with a COVID-19 billions of dollars of bailout. Should they have made part of the conditions for that it's hands off free media that Hungary and Poland allow free media. Otherwise they're not going to get bailed out. They're not going to get money. I mean, they seem like they caved in.

Gabor Polyak:

That was not a good point for this kind of , uh, being strong. Um, yeah. In case of Hungary, we are speaking about 10 years, European union, new since 2010, 2011, that's the Hungarian government hates , uh , free media. And yeah, it began in 2011 with the new media lows , there was a huge debate at European level. If there's a lows are in line with the European values. And it was absolutely clear that they are not. And after that, there was several points every two years came some big , uh, issue that was , uh , also , uh , discussed at European level. So there was millions of opportunity in the hand of the European union and they have , uh , it is very important to see they have , uh , once legal , uh, to , to take actions against such kind of , of , uh , tendencies. And secondly, they have political tools and they didn't use hasn't used any of that.

Dana Lewis:

It's a hell of a statement about the European union, right? Because it's supposed to be a lot more than just an economic marriage. They're supposed to share common values, including democracy and free speech, and yet they're not enforcing it. And what is the danger in Europe if they don't do that? Because there is a pull to the right. Hungary is not a very big country within the European union too , but Poland is taboo , uh , of Hungary . So we , we are speaking about very big market . Uh, even if we are watching it from the point of view of economics , uh, it is a big mistake to , to not to stop , uh, these standards because we know that , uh, also Czech Republic , uh, is very, very problematic. They are , uh , we problems with the using of public money, European money , uh , on the side of the prime minister of Czech Republic.

Speaker 5:

There are problems now in Slovenia. So Hungary was the first point. Hungry is not so important, not so strong. It would be, would have been very easy to stop this whole tendency within the European union and the European union didn't do that. And now the whole Eastern European EU part , uh, is , uh, in, in this problematic , uh, situation, the board Poliac thank you so much because I mean, a lot of people view hungry as , as an, as an Island , uh, in terms of this is a problem in hungry , and I think you help us understand it is a much broader issue. And it's one that the European union should have tackled , uh , could have tackled , uh, and it may have to in the future. I hope so. Thank you, sir. Thank you.

Speaker 4:

[inaudible]

Dana Lewis:

Why hasn't the EU gotten tougher with countries choking free speech. Let's ask Hungary's member of European parliament. Are you joining me now from Budapest is Katalyn Cseh, who is a member of European parliament for Hungary . Hi, katalyn, how are you doing in this

Speaker 3:

COVID-19 crisis? We have,

katalin Cseh:

Well, it's trying to hold up as everybody and the hoping for better days to come.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. Is , is it being reported in hungry ? How bad the situation is, or is the government being clear about how many cases they have or are they like many, many governments understating the problem?

katalin Cseh:

Well, Hungary was never really strong than testing . So all the way true depend them AK. It was quite questionable. How many cases we have. Uh , I was working as a doctor , uh , volunteering during the pen that makes, so I got some firsthand experience as well, but that's clear that the public hasn't been sufficiently informed. Then I did find this problematic part of hilarity , uh , due to the importance of getting everybody involved in the , uh, public health , uh, defense.

Dana Lewis:

Okay. So when people talk about free media and freedom of speech in a, in a pluralistic democratic society, I mean, here's a clear example where if you're not given information, you don't even know what the dangers are. The health dangers are. That's why it's really important to have free media. And in the middle of this, you have some 80 staff members in your country from index the so called free social media site news site who walked out. He said they couldn't report it's concerning.

katalin Cseh:

Yes, it's very concerning. And index was really the most important to independent news portal that had the highest , uh, re number of daily readers in the country. It was really an institution on its own, and it was clear for the past some years that the government , uh , tried to gain influence in the editorial board of index, also in the strong governing structures behind the, the , uh, the portal. And , uh , just a few days ago , um, due to the pressure , uh, and the influence coming from, I would say the editor in chief resign and , uh , as a protest, the entire editorial board walked out as well. Now we are in the middle of the pandemic . Uh, the entire job situation is of course, very shaky, particularly issue where he mediated hungry. So I think it's very hard to understate the importance of 70, 80 people. It's families, mortgages loans, and an uncertain future, just standing up and walking out because they don't want to work in a media that is influenced by Orban. They want to have a free voice. And I think , uh, the whole Hungarian society , uh, really has to support us in labor .

Dana Lewis:

Viktor Orban already has an iron grip for the last decade on hungry and in hungry. What does he care about index?

katalin Cseh:

Well, index is , uh , is , is , is , is a portal is being read by 1 million people daily. Well, we have 10 million people in total. So this is really the most influential news portal we have in the country. So this is , uh , literally hallmark of independent news reporting as mr. Orban cannibalize , the public media , uh, many States that now indexes , uh, something like the BBC for the UK, for instance, this is the site everybody opens in the morning when they wake up, even the conservatives, even the fetus voters. So this is where people get their news from the main source of news. So it is really something like the , the last resistance against this enormous pressure fetus has been applying , uh, and , uh , if index falls, then if it's really a huge blow to our entire country. And I suppose for everybody in the world who believes in free and fair media and checks and balances, and , uh , the possibility to report on power,

Speaker 3:

The last resistance, what, what , uh , what is the resistance against?

katalin Cseh:

Well , uh , Hungary has been governed by mr. Orban and afforded a past 10 years with a supermajority . Uh, and during this time, according to freedom house, Hungary ceased to be a democracy. Now we are a hybrid of autocracy . The conservative , uh, popular government of mr. Orban has been systematically doing away with checks and balances with the independence of the judiciary, with the freedom of the media. We , uh, or let me start over about, has expelled the central European university from Budapest, because he didn't agree with the views that were taught there. Uh , it's as an American that , um , university death had a campus and in Hungary, and now they are, they are out of the country. It's been an extremely damaging time for the Sola , for our country, for the democracy of our country, and of course media and the possibility to report and the possibility to share information is really the hallmark off , uh , off , off of the possibility of change. And if we , uh, even stop having these independent institutions, then it's , it's really a huge problem. A lot of news portals were closed down for the past years. Uh , very influential papers, printed papers, big papers, papers had, this has been existing for hundred years now. Uh, they are not functioning anymore. And index is really something of the greatest magnitude for this country.

Speaker 6:

So many people read it. So many people rely on it. It's a very fail, respected , uh, journal, even a Brode. And it's really a huge loss that the government is trying to buy influence. Also there,

Dana Lewis:

Forgive me if I'm wrong and you'll, I'm sure you'll correct me because you're not timid about these things. I was a reporter based in Moscow for American television. This seems cookie cutter. This seems what president Putin did when he came to power in the year 2000, cut down the newspapers, take over the ownership of any free or critical media. Not all of it was necessarily free. Some of it was pulled in different political directions. Some of it was black media, they used to say, but, you know , take control of that. And then you have free reign to absolutely control people's perceptions and , and the debate because you will program the television stations, the radio stations, the newspapers every night with your message, you know, from the prime minister's office. And then we're hearing about it in Poland, and then we're hearing about an hungry . So, I mean, people have learned from a very bad example.

katalin Cseh:

Yes, indeed . Analysts are all about, has been a close friendship in mr. Putin for the past decade. And this is not the first law that has been adopting , uh , from , uh , mr. Putin's governance style, for instance, a very controversial law that branded ngo's as pouring to agents is also something like the brainchild of mr. Putin and something that has been done also. And , uh, a few years ago, mr. Orbit also pushed true a law that victimized civil society, just based on the example of mr. Putin and really the importance of gaining control over to media, it's really hard to be understated. Uh, all the local papers that people reading the greatest numbers in the countryside are , uh, being exclusively controlled , uh, by, by cronies, close to fetus, the majority of them , big news channels , uh, the public media, which has been used for propaganda purposes.

Dana Lewis:

It sounds like a campaign to have Viktor Orban, a prime minister for life as, as Putin is president for life in Russia.

katalin Cseh:

Yes. Well, mr. Orban stated that he has plans for 20 more years of governing, but , uh, I believe that this is now really the time for the next elections in 22, that the Hungarian people just like raise their voice and we go to vote in large numbers and we do away with this authoritarian , uh , leadership that has been , uh , in power for the last 10 years, because , uh, I feel that there is anger and resentment boiling in the country. We have to channel it in a vote in pronouns and the improper real change.

Speaker 3:

You were a member of a political party, you for office and hungry. Uh , and then you , you closed down your political party, or

Speaker 6:

I have a founding member of momentum , uh, which is the , uh, youngest political party in Hungary .

Dana Lewis:

Why didn't you get elected? You didn't even get one seat, did you?

katalin Cseh:

Well, it's the , well, the first election , uh, we ran at was a little bit a year after our party was founded. And then we got 3%, which was indeed nod for , uh , for getting a seat in the, in the parliament, but it just a year off her , uh, we had the , a very good result of the European parliament, where , uh , we gave the over a 9%, which made us , uh , one of the stronger position parties. And , uh , a few months ago at the local elections, we elected hundreds of counselors , a lot of mayors all over the country. So to part is growing and that was ,

Dana Lewis:

Is it a free and fair election?

katalin Cseh:

And that I , I would not say that his free and fair, but there is a possibility of , uh , of winning for both sides.

Speaker 3:

Katalin, y ou're a member of European parliament. T he, my understanding is being part of the EU. Isn't just about an economic deal. It's, it's about the values, which include free speech and free media and democracy. Why has the EU failed to really put Viktor Orban in his place and tell t hem hands off the press, hands off the media there, what you're doing does not in any way, align itself with the values of the European union, why have they failed to do that?

katalin Cseh:

That's exactly what the European parliament ones that we should be tying your money to the risk factor for your values. Uh , we should make a clear line, a clear distinction between what is possible to be done in a community of values and whatnot. When a country joins the European union, they have to assign a , for a number of criteria based on the rule of law about the freedoms, the media, the governance. And , uh, it's very important that even after somebody is a member , uh, somebody has become a member. They really have to adhere to the same standards as before and

Dana Lewis:

Happening. I mean, why did , why is the EU not enforcing the rules that they ask members to sign?

katalin Cseh:

The EU has very weak capacities right now to do so , uh, as we are discussing the , the budget deal of the next 10 years , the next seven years, a lot of , uh, institutions, including the European parliament, once a clear rule of law guarantee when it comes to , uh, distributing public finances to governments. And , uh, of course negotiations are still ongoing, but I believe that this is really something, the heart of Europe. And of course the importance for our entire community to have everybody respect to our common values.

Dana Lewis:

You didn't answer the question really?

Speaker 6:

Yes. Well, right now , uh, the,

Dana Lewis:

It says, it says when you sign up, you have to, you have to share the common values. And then as you're getting, especially during COVID-19 where there's a major bailout by the European union countries, that they have to qualify for that bailout. I mean, they have to be part of the EU. They have to share the same common values you're telling me the Viktor Orban does not that he's shutting down the last remaining free press site in hungry . Why didn't he , you say no way, you cannot be part of the EU. If you're going to behave like this, why are they scared to do that?

katalin Cseh:

It's not about being scared. It's about having the , uh , power of institutions in place to be able to do so , uh, I asked this question a lot. Yeah. So I've been also asking this question a lot to my fellow colleagues. And basically the answer is that the current treaties of the European union , uh, tie every decision that is of this magnitude to a unanimous decision between countries , uh, we barely have a systems in place that could , uh, be useful in the case of systemic deviations, because we have very good mechanisms for when , uh , one country breaches , uh , one standard or the other, but actually the European union wasn't prepared for a systemic democratic backsliding within its own community. And right now we are witnessing this in two countries in Hungary and in Poland. And it's very important to install these kinds of mechanisms, for instance , um, compulsory European prosecutor's office , uh, do have control over European public finances , uh, and also , uh , systematic rule , offline monitoring systems , uh, so that we can safeguard our values in our entire community. But this is something we have to do now. And this is what European parliament has been fighting for.

Dana Lewis:

It's interesting, right? And ironic that Victor orbans main appeal to the public is that he's improved the finances of the country, the economy, and really the way he did that was becoming a member of the European union. And now he's floating the very rules of the European union that he's used to improve the economy of hungry .

katalin Cseh:

Yes, indeed. And this is this hypocrisy we have to be doing away with it because so criticizing the EU has been one of the hallmarks of mr. Oregon's governance. Uh, he has been claiming for a long time that the EU is an evil conspiratory powers to , uh, try to do away with the conservative governance of hungry . They are enemies of the Hungarian people and then the old ed. And then the same time they have been profiting from EU money , uh, which , uh, has been spent without appropriate oversight to a small circle of cronies often. And this is why it's so important that the EU , uh, can project its values , uh, in its , uh , economic policies as well, Sudan, everybody , uh , who spends our money also has to , uh, respect our values as well.

Speaker 1:

Caitlin cseh a member of the European parliament for Hungary Thank you so much. Press freedoms are also under attack, severely under attack in a country that I've always considered the leader in democratic principles in the free world. America, if you think calling everything fake news and campaigning against TV or newspapers will bring you clarity. Think again, it won't Americans. As you approach the elections in 2020, you would better support liberal open values, or you risk going the way of dictatorships, which limit political discourse, because they cannot accept criticism. Not only because of their egos, but because the aim to strangle a position to strengthen their grip on power and continue to stop their pockets. Meantime, the bad boys of Europe need a lesson from the countries of Europe, which still value democracy and free speech. That's another edition of backstory. Please share and subscribe. I'm Dana Lewis and I'll talk to you soon.

Veronika Monk, Fmr Dep. Editor Index
Gabor Polyak , Mertek
Katalin Cseh, Member EU Parliament Hungary