The Empire Strikes Back

Terry Black's Facebook profile photo.

Terry Black (Facebook profile photo).

On November 10, 2016, the Andy Vajna-owned, pro-government TV2 television station broadcast a report entitled “Gábor Vona’s Secret Life” [Vona Gábor titkos élete] in which transgender performer and former gay adult-film actor Terry Black (Mihály Rácz) alleged that he had seen the president of the radical-nationalist Jobbik party engaging in homosexual acts at gatherings of Hungarian intellectuals in the early 2000s (source A and B in Hungarian).

The pro-government commercial media, including Origo.hu, PestiSrácok.hu, ripost.hu and the Árpád Habony-operated lokál.hu, carried the TV2 report, which was broadcast just two days after Jobbik National Assembly representatives had followed through with their threat not to support the government-sponsored proposed amendment to the Fundamental Law that would have prevented the European Union from resettling Middle Eastern and African refugees in Hungary if government “residency-bonds” were not first eliminated (see Updated: Amendments to the Fundamental Law and The Hungarian Investment Immigration Program).

Shortly after the broadcast of the TV2 report, Gábor Vona’s wife, Krisztina Vona-Szabó, published an open letter on her Facebook page to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s wife,  Anikó Lévai (source in Hungarian):

According to the freshest “news” in the pro-government press, Gábor regularly participated in homosexual orgies during his university years. At the time when we were engaged. Naturally I understand that there is great confusion, resentment and vindictiveness, because the amendment to the Fundamental Law submitted by Viktor Orbán has failed. However, no matter what the sides think of this, it still cannot be a reason to humiliate a family and try to discredit my husband with fabricated personal-life character assassination and totally groundless lies. . . . Since I see no other solution, I ask you as a wife and a mother to stop your husband. Obviously it is not possible to influence Viktor Orbán on the political stage. I presume that you might be the last person he may listen to.

Jobbik President Gábor Vona: "I am a proud heterosexual" (photo: Magyar Narancs).

Jobbik President Gábor Vona: “I am a proud heterosexual” (photo: Magyar Narancs).

On November 11, Jobbik President Vona held a press conference at which he denied Terry Black’s allegations, declaring that he was a “proud heterosexual” and that the TV2 report and its coverage in the pro-government media had been an act of revenge for his party’s decision not to support the Orbán-submitted proposed amendment to the Fundamental Law (source in Hungarian). Vona stated during the press conference (source in Hungarian):

Incidentally, at the time that Terry Black mentions, in the period around 2003, I was part of an intellectual circle in which most of those present were intellectual men. This was Viktor Orbán’s civil circle [Polgári Kör], the Alliance for the Nation civil circle. Since I have left this circle, I don’t know how the work of this circle continued. While I was there, I experienced no movement of this type [homosexuality].

TV2 report "Strange Photo of Gábor Vona."

TV2 report “Strange Photo of Gábor Vona.”

On November 14, TV2 broadcast another report, entitled “Strange Photo of Gábor Vona” [Furcsa fotó Vona Gáborról], which showed a photo that Terry Black had posted on his Facebook page of the Jobbik president standing in an intimate pose with a man. The TV2 report cited Vona’s statement quoted above, though only the first sentence: “Incidentally, at the time that Terry Black mentions, in the period around 2003, I was part of an intellectual circle in which most of those present were intellectual men” (source A and B in Hungarian). The pro-government media empire, as previously, carried the report.

"A proud hetero": photo from Terry Black's Facebook page.

The “strange photo.”

The opposition website 444.hu discovered that the “strange photo” in question depicted a supporter congratulating Gábor Vona at a 2009 Jobbik party event (source in Hungarian).

Also on November 14, the head of Prime Ministry Press Office, Bertalan Havasi, responded to the open letter than Vona’s wife had written to Orbán’s wife (source in Hungarian): “As a political official and Hungary’s head of government, Viktor Orbán is used to attempts to discredit him through groundless lies and fabricated personal-life character assassinations. . . . Some can handle this in a manly way and others choose to hide behind the wife.”

On November 15, Jobbik National Assembly representative Dóra Dúró announced that the party intended to sue TV2, Origo.hu, PestiSrácok.hu, ripost.hu and lokál.hu for “falsification of news” in connection with the reports suggesting that Gábor Vona had been engaged in homosexual activity in the early 2000s (source in Hungarian).

Also on November 15, the National Media and Infocommunications Authority announced that it had made no decision regarding whether to initiate an investigation of the TV2 reports (source in Hungarian).

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Invasion of the HomoVikings

Viking Ship to send Good 2On May 21, the Prime Ministry instructed the Government Control Office (Kormányzati Ellenőrzési Hivatal, or KEHI) to launch an investigation of the use of EEA Grant funding for non-government organizations in Hungary.

KEHI is state organization that conducts oversight of the use of public money in Hungary. The EEA Grants are endowments that non-European Union countries Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein provide to lesser developed EU states, including Hungary, in order to maintain access the union’s internal market as members of the European Economic Area (EEA). Norway provides funding for 96 percent of the EEA Grants, while Iceland and Liechtenstein contribute the remaining 4 percent (see EEA Grants website in English).

The EEA Grants allocated 13.5 million euros in funding to around 150 NGOs in Hungary for the 2013-2017 funding period through the Hungarian Environmental Partnership Foundation (Ökotárs Alapítvány).

The Prime Minister’s Office asked KEHI to audit the Hungarian Environmental Partnership Foundation and the non-government organizations that received EEA Grants during the current funding period after János Lázár, the Orbán government minister who runs the office, accused Norway in early April of indirectly supporting the liberal-green Hungarian opposition party Politics Can Be Different (LMP) through support to pro-LMP NGOs (source in Hungarian).

On May 30, the Orbán government published a list of 13 of these NGOs that it considered to be closely connected to Politics Can Be Different (source in Hungarian): these most prominently included organizations that monitor the corrupt use of state funding (the Transparency International Hungarian Foundation, K Monitor and the Asimov Foundation, which runs the website Átlátszó.hu); civil-rights organizations (the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union); and gay-rights organizations (the Labrisz Lesbian Association and Rainbow Mission Hungary, organizer of the annual Budapest Pride LGBT festival and parade). These organizations have been very critical of the Orbán administration for its opaque use of public money in order to build a pro-Fidesz oligarchy (see Lajos Simicska/Közgép), disregard for civil liberties and indifference toward gay rights (see The Cardboard Men).

The government of Norway strenuously protested KEHI’s audit of the EEA Grants, asserting in a communiqué that it violated agreements the country had signed regarding management of this funding (source in English). The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, furthermore,summoned Hungary’s ambassador to Norway, Antal government foreign minister Géza Jeszenszky, on June 5 to formally protest the audit.

On June 10, Minister of External Economy and Foreign Affairs Tibor Navracsics summoned the ambassador of Norway to Hungary to discuss the growing dispute between the two countries.

On June 13 KEHI published the following item on the organization’s website (see Orange Files translation of bottom post):

 

Norwegian Fund Good for Post

 

In characteristically deceptive Orbánian fashion, KEHI referred to the program Célpont [Target] broadcast on the pro-government television station Hír TV as the source of these claims at the end of the short piece linked to this heading. 

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The Cardboard Men

cardboard men

Representatives from the Fidesz-KDNP coalition (right) attend roundtable discussion on gay rights in Hungary.

The 2013 Budapest Pride gay parade was held on July 6 amid tight security, as it has since radical right-wing demonstrators severely disrupted the event in 2007 and 2008. For the past five years, the Budapest Police has prevented protesters from assaulting Budapest Pride procession by stationing riot cops at heavy security fence erected on cross streets one block on either side of the parade route along its entire length. One can gain access to the parade only by passing through a security checkpoint at the beginning of the route on Heroes‘ Square. Otherwise, one cannot get closer than a football field in length to the parade as it proceeds down Andrássy Avenue to the center of the city. There have been progressively fewer and fewer demonstrators heckling paraders from afar under this hermetically sealed security arrangement. Only a couple of hundred right-wing protesters showed up for this year’s Budapest Pride procession, most of them belonging to a new radical nationalist group that calls itself Guards of the Carpathian Homeland (Kárpát Haza Őrei).

The Budapest Pride parade is a microcosm of the overall status of homosexuality in Hungary: tolerated, though only in sterile isolation from the heterosexual world and to a lesser degree since Prime Minister Viktor Orbán started pulling the political strings in Hungary as opposition leader more than six years ago. The Fundamental Law that Orbán and the FideszChristian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) administration adopted after coming to power in 2010 stipulates that marriage must be between a man and a woman, thus making Hungary the fifth European Union member state following Poland, Bulgaria, Latvia and Lithuania to constitutionally ban, by exclusion, same-sex marriage. (A sixth European Union member state, Romania, prohibits same-sex marriage in the country’s civil code.) Fidesz declined to participate in any of the Budapest Pride week events to which it was invited, sending nobody to represent the party at a roundtable discussion on gay rights in Hungary or to march in the annual parade.

Fidesz’s official stand on homosexuality is one of cold neutrality. A party communiqué to the news website Index.hu stated that “Homosexuality is a private affair that Fidesz does not want to make into a public affair. In connection to Budapest Pride, everybody has the right to participate in the event, just as they have a right to not participate in it.” In response to a question from the news website 444.hu whether Fidesz supported the Budapest Pride parade, party Communications Director Máté Kocsis said “Fidesz has no opinion on this question. I have not conducted a poll regarding who is going and who is not. Everybody will decide for themselves. I, myself, am not going to participate.” Asked about news that  Budapest Pride organizers planned to present him with a rainbow flag to fly temporarily outside city hall, de facto Fidesz Budapest Mayor István Tarlós said that “It would be better if they would refrain from this open provocation, because the mayor does not have the ways and means of placing this flag on city hall.” Tarlós earlier in the week pretended not to know what Budapest Pride was when a reporter from 444.hu asked him a question about the event. After being told what it was, he answered “I stand on the other side.”

Both Mayor Tarlós and Prime Minister Orbán declined invitations to participate in the Budapest Pride parade. This is understandable from a political point of view. Under the conditions of extreme political polarization that exist in Hungary, for them to attend an event that in political terms has traditionally been identified with the Budapest liberal élite would signify a concession to the opponent. Moreover, it would drive a certain number of Fidesz voters into the arms of the radical right-wing nationalist Jobbik party, which announced this week that if it ever comes to power it will ban Budapest Pride and other “deviant, provocative, exhibitionist programs.” However, in this instance Fidesz could still have sent lesser party representatives, even non-official known sympathizers, to attend the Budapest Pride events to which it was invited. Instead, only feigned ignorance, haughty standoffishness and rigidly noncommittal communiqués.

Throughout much of western Europe and North America national and city government officials openly support gay-pride events, often marching at the head of gay parades. Hungary, though a more traditional eastern European country, appeared to be proceeding in this direction during the first decade of Budapest Pride, which started in earnest in 1997. The reversal of progress in the area of gay rights in Hungary over the past seven years fits squarely into the overall pattern of democratic regression that has taken place in the country over that period.

See Orange Files photo gallery of 2013 Budapest Pride parade. 

Gay Parade Post Photo

 

 

 

 

 

See Orange Files photo gallery of 2007 and 2008 Budapest Pride parades.

Post Photo Gay Parade-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

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