Referendum Homestretch on Hungarian Television

Below are screenshots taken from programs broadcast on the M1 news channel of state-run Hungarian Television from 3:00 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. on October 2, 2016—that is, until half an hour before the closing of polls in Hungary’s referendum on European Union migrant-resettlement quotas (see Hungary’s 2016 Referendum on European Union Migrant Resettlement Quotas and The Referendum That Couldn’t Fail).

Aside from intermittent weather bulletins and a report on the new leadership of the U.K. Labour Party, newscasts and programs broadcast on M1 during this three-and-a-half-hour period dealt with just two issues—the referendum results and migration.

The screenshots are from the various reports on migration. Note that in 2013, the National Assembly approved an amendment to Hungary’s electoral laws that eliminated campaign silence (source in Hungarian).

Click on any screenshot to see gallery view.

Sources: screenshots 1 and 2 (00:25 and 7:31, respectively); screenshots 3, 4 and 5 (0:11, 21:40 and 25:59, respectively); screenshot 6 (0:09); screenshots 7 and 8 (0:08 and 13:54, respectively); screenshots 9,10 and 11 (0:09, 9:05 and 9:38, respectively); screenshots 12 and 13 (5:53 and 10:24, respectively); screenshots 14, 15 and 16 (17:58, 21:46 and 25:14, respectively).

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Slaying the Gentle Giant

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Orange Files photograph of Baba that ripost.hu used without citing the source. 

On January 11, 2016, the on-line tabloid ripost.hu published an article entitled “Serial Criminal Ex-Convict at the Head of Soros’s Hungarian Migrant Organization!” (Börtönviselt, sokszoros bűnöző Soros magyar migráns­szervezetének élén!) regarding Baba, the most prominent volunteer for the Migration Aid non-governmental organization that provided food, clothing and other forms of assistance to tens of thousands of migrants as they passed through Hungary on their way to Germany in the summer and early autumn of 2015 (source in Hungarian).

The ripost.hu article claimed that Migration Aid, which started as a Facebook group in June 2015, was part of a “well developed Soros migrant-assistance network” that “following its establishment immediately received support from the Budapest Soros Foundation.”

The article used the following terms and phrases to describe Baba, an enormous man whom Western media such as The Guardian and the Associated Press dubbed the “Gentle Giant”: “refined criminal”; “serious criminal”; “dyed-in-the-wool swindler”; and “criminal well-known in the underworld.”

The article claimed that Baba, whose real name is Csaba Antal Tot, “got out of prison just a few months ago, where he had spent four years and six months” and that “during a routine identity check at the Eastern Railway Station it turned out that Baba—of course under his real name—has a national warrant out for his arrest for a new series of serious crimes that he has committed.” The article alleged that Baba “deals on the black market with gold jewelry that he ‘procured’ from migrants in exchange for various services.”

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Fidesz National Assembly Faction Deputy Leader János Halász speaking at January 11 press conference regarding Baba and Migration Aid (source: fidesz.hu).

The ripost.hu article cited no sources or evidence to substantiate its allegations regarding Baba or Migration Aid’s connection to the Soros Foundation. The article used a photograph of Baba from the Orange Files gallery Scenes from the Great Migration 3: the Eastern Railway Crisis without citing the source.

Baba responded almost immediately to the ripost.hu allegations, writing in a Facebook post that “I am neither a saint nor an angel. I am a person who tries to help those in need. I have never been a criminal, I was not taken into custody at the Eastern Railway Station and there is no warrant out for my arrest” (source in Hungarian).

Shortly after the publication of the ripost.hu article, Fidesz National Assembly caucus Deputy Leader János Halász held a press conference regarding the allegations against Baba (source in Hungarian). Below is an Orange Files translation of the statement that Halász read at the press conference:

Good day dear ladies and gentleman. I respectfully welcome you in the name of the Fidesz National Assembly group.

Today we encountered shocking news. According to a report from an on-line news portal, an ex-convict, criminal repeat offender was active at the head of one of the biggest migrant-assistance organizations in Hungary. A criminal who was in prison on several occasions and who has already committed many crimes, among them fraud and forgery of public documents.

According to the news, this criminal was one of the main organizers of the Migration Aid organization that, in fact, belongs to György Soros and assists migrants and migration both here and at other points in Europe.

As is known, this was the organization that promotes illegal migration through the provision of guide books and other services and which organized a demonstration in the autumn against the government’s planned legal and physical border barriers.

First of all, we would like to find out if the news is true. Is it true that a criminal repeat offender organized affairs surrounding migrants? If this news is true, it is shocking. We don’t understand it and we ask how a criminal can fill such a position. We demand that an investigation be carried out within the organization itself. And, if necessary, within other forums as well because this affair could entail very serious national-security risks.

According to the news, a criminal organized the affairs of illegal migrants and did business with them, taking care of money, documents, various services and who knows what else for the illegal migrants.

This person may have deceived many well-meaning volunteers as well. It is questionable whether or not György Soros’s foundation new about this matter. I can hardly imagine that it did not. We also ask for help from the media in order to determine the truth. Rather than silence, an enquiry is needed so that we can truly find out whether or not it is true that a criminal repeat offender handled the affairs of the migrant organization and the immigrants.

We wish you good work!  

Following Halász’s press conference, Migration Aid Spokesperson Zsuzsanna Zsohár told the website index.hu that the organization had never received “a penny” (fillér) from the Soros Foundation (source in Hungarian). Meanwhile Baba told the website origo.hu that “I am not a criminal repeat offender, neither am I a heavyweight mafioso as they have said I am—this is slander. I have spoken with my lawyer and we are going to take the necessary steps, we are going to sue the newspaper and the journalist that wrote this about me” (source in Hungarian).

Orange Files first saw Baba, a.k.a. Csaba Antal Tot, in May 2015: he was standing at a flimsy card table in the pedestrian underpass near the Eastern Railway Station in Budapest providing food and water to twenty or so migrants who were passing through the city on their way to Germany. The number of migrants traversing Hungary was still relatively small. The Migration Aid group had not yet been formed. Over the next four months, Orange Files on many occasions witnessed Baba serving food and distributing clothing, by then as a Migration Aid volunteer, to the steadily increasing number of migrants at the station’s “transit zone.”   

Baba’s criminal record has no bearing on his eligibility to perform volunteer work for an ad hoc non-governmental Facebook group such as Migration Aid. Even if the claims of ripost.hu that Baba is an ex-convict and repeat offender prove to be true, the extraordinary effort he made in the summer and fall of 2015 to provide many thousands of migrants with humanitarian aid is no less worthy of praise and admiration. If, as ripost.hu alleges, Baba exploited the migration crisis to gain personal financial profit on the black market, then he should be held legally and morally accountable for this delinquency. 

Fidesz attempted to use the unsubstantiated allegations against Baba in the on-line tabloid ripost.hu as a means of discrediting the civilians and civil organizations that acted largely in place of the Orbán Government to provide the nearly 400,000 migrants who passed through Hungary in 2015 with humanitarian aid. The authoritarian and despotic inclinations of Fidesz that are embodied in the party’s character assassination of Baba and denigration of Migration Aid constitute a significant risk to the long-term stability and prosperity of Hungary and the unity of the European Union. 

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On January 13, ripost.hu published an article stating that the website had obtained a copy of the Budapest Court decision to uphold a four-and-a-half-year prison sentence that Baba had received for committing fraud worth 98 million forints (310,812 euros). The article asserted that Baba is currently facing another charge of fraud worth several million forints (source in Hungarian). The ripost.hu article alleged that Baba had “hit pay dirt in the migrant business,” reiterating the website’s previous claim that he had exploited the passage of several hundred thousand migrants through Hungary in the summer and early autumn of 2015 to conduct illicit business involving the trade of jewelry for various electronic goods and services, including residence permits and marriages of convenience.

Also on January 13, Baba conducted a half-hour interview with nol.hu, the on-line edition of the opposition newspaper Népszabadság, in which he acknowledged that he had served time in prison and that he had since been questioned in connection to another criminal investigation (source in Hungarian). However, Baba denied that he had received compensation for services provided to migrants passing through Hungary in 2015 and confirmed that he intended to file a lawsuit against ripost.hu on charges of slander.

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The Röszke Telephones

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“Shocking images on abandoned telephones”: Hungarian Television shows its anonymous source (Orange Files screenshot).

On October 9, 2015, state-run Hungarian Television broadcast a report on images and videos allegedly found on telephones that migrants discarded after crossing into Hungary near the village of Röszke along the Hungarian-Serbian border earlier this year. Hungarian Television reported three days previously that it had received the telephones containing the images from an anonymous resident of Röszke who had “helped the authorities as a civilian volunteer in their work at the border” (source in Hungarian from 7:54).

The October 9 Hungarian Television report is typical of those that Hungary’s state-run media has broadcast regarding the Great Migration regularly over the past few months in order to support the Orbán government‘s contention that migrants represent a grave immediate threat to the security of Hungary and all of Europe.

Below are an Orange Files video of the original Hungarian Television report in Hungarian and a transcription of the report in English. Note: volume of video increases at 0:38.

 

 

Newscaster (0:00): Next is a shocking story with disturbing images. We are continuing to examine those telephones that the immigrants left or threw away in the vicinity of the border. There are more than 1,000 pictures and videos in the telephones. There is one recording in which men who apparently know one another well intentionally harm and torture one another. According to the psychologist, this could represent a type of preparation for psychological and physical pain.

Reporter (0:20) In this recording a young man shoots a gun at his companion, who falls down. We will show it once again. He aims, fires, the man in white clothing screams, grabs his abdomen and falls to his knees. Somebody records all of this on a video. These same two men are visible on this recording. They are sitting in a car and putting the bleeding wound on camera as well. On Monday we showed those telephones that the immigrants left in Röszke. We found these shocking videos on those devices.

Reporter (0:51: This is another recording from the telephones. On it one sees that a dozen men crowded together in a room. The two kneeling young men dressed in white are continually slapping one another. Next to them a man dressed in camouflage holds a pistol and exhorts them to hit harder. The others look at all of this with bored indifference as if it were natural.

Criminal Psychologist (1:14): They hit him, beat him, tortured him. He himself will believe in the effectiveness of this.

Reporter (1:18): According to the criminal psychologist, these exercises will make it natural that they harm one another. In this way they become psychologically hardened so that they will not break down during a possible interrogation and will better tolerate physical pain as well.

Criminal Psychologist (1:31): They also fight with one another because they have learned the aggressive method of handling conflict in the parental home, in their country and they see this and they experience this. Thus if they have to quickly resolve a conflict what remains is “I’ll get rid of you.”

Reporter (1:45): In the course of their European journey there have been several instances in which the migrants have issued death threats in conflict situations. Television crews have recorded some of these. In Serbia, for example, one of them showed the M1 film crew that he would cut their throats. In Slovakia, a child of hardly ten years old showed a cameraman the same thing and at the Eastern Railway station they also threatened a TV2 reporter. [Criminal Psychologist] József Végh says that for these people death is what counts, not life.

Criminal Psychologist (2:14): It is so glorious to be a suicide terrorist that there is a competition to see whose relative can be a suicide attacker. The person who can be one is chosen. And an average mortal simply cannot be a suicide attacker.

Reporter (2:25): The specialist also said that in Hungary they have already modified training for hostage negotiators as well. They must now be prepared to negotiate with those arriving from the Middle East about their deaths and not their lives.

See this report on Hungarian Television website.

See previous Orange Files posts on the Great Migration: Viktor’s New Sign; The Curtain Falls Again; Hungary and the Great Migration; The Fields Are Speaking Pashto; Stage 3: Dehumanization; Fortress Hungary; Sign War I; and National Consultation on Immigration and Terrorism.

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Making Politics of Migration: the Civil Cooperation Forum Signs

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“A happy, festive crowd has arrived to Hungary”      (photo: Orange Files).

On October 5, 2015, the pro-government political organization Civil Cooperation Forum (Civil Összefogás Fórum, or CÖF) erected twelve signs at a park near the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest juxtaposing images of opposition political officials and aggressive or seemingly aggressive migrants (see CÖF website in Hungarian).

The signs also display migration-related quotes which the depicted democratic opposition officials have made over the past few months and which radical-nationalist Jobbik President Gábor Vona—who supports the Orbán government‘s current migration policy—made during the previous parliamentary cycle.

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CÖF officials including President László Csizmadia (left) introduce the organization’s new signs at the Olimpia Park in Budapest (photo: 444.hu).

Civil Cooperation Forum President László Csizmadia, one of the main organizers of the five pro-government Peace Marches that have taken place in Budapest since 2012, said that the organization has not yet decided whether it will have the signs put up throughout Hungary (source in Hungarian)

Most of the signs depict migrants in Budapest during the Eastern Railway Station crisis in late August and early September and at the Röszke border crossing along the Hungarian-Serbian frontier during a clash with police on September 16—the single violent confrontation involving migrants in Hungary since the beginning of the Great Migration.

Below are Orange Files photos of the signs and translations of the displayed quotes.

Click on any photo to see gallery view.

See all 12 photos.

Note: Fidesz-affiliated foundations have provided much of the Civil Cooperation Forum’s financing (source in Hungarian). Opposition media has speculated that CÖF is also the recipient of indirect government funding through the likewise László Csizmadia-led National Cooperation Fund (Nemzeti Együtműködési Alap, or NEA) (source A and B in Hungarian).

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Orbán Government Notable Quotes: October 1–2, 2015

Prime Ministry Chief János Lázár:

“They regularly find people [migrants] infected with syphilis, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV as well.” October 1, 2015, speaking about the migration crisis during his regular Thursday press conference (source in Hungarian).

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán:

“Eighty percent of the immigrants are young men. They resemble an army more than they do asylum-seekers. They are uneducated, the majority of them speak only Arabic.” October 2, 2015, speaking on pro-government Kossuth Radio (source in Hungarian).

“Let’s not regard what the Croatian prime minister says as the opinion of the Croatian people. The Croatian prime minister and his party are the representatives of the Socialist International whose job it is to attack Hungary.” October 2, 2015, speaking on pro-government Kossuth Radio in reference to tension between the governments of Hungary and Croatia over the migration crisis (source in Hungarian).

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán during October 2, 2015 interview on Kossuth Radio (photo: index.hu)

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán during October 2, 2015 interview on Kossuth Radio (photo: index.hu)

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Viktor’s New Sign

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The People Have Decided: The Country Must Be Defended (photo: Orange Files).

The Orbán government has posted new anti-migration signs in Hungary reading “The People Have Decided: The Country Must Be Defended.” The government published the design of the signs on its Facebook site just hours after a few dozen of the two thousand migrants stranded in northern Serbia following the closure of the final gap in the Hungarian-Serbian border clashed with Hungarian police and Counter Terrorism Center commandos at the Horgos frontier crossing on September 16. The government announced earlier on this date that it would spend 381 million forints (1.2 million euros) on “information connected to the migration situation” (source in Hungarian)

The “People Have Decided” portion of the sign refers to the government’s May National Consultation on Immigration and Terrorism, a nominal survey that it sent to the eight million eligible voters in Hungary asking questions such as: “Would You support the Hungarian government if, contrary to the permissive policy of Brussels, it introduced stricter regulation of immigration?”; and “Would You support the Hungarian government if it introduced stricter regulation on the basis of which it would be possible to take into custody immigrants who cross the Hungarian border illegally?”

The significant majority of the slightly over one million Hungarians who responded to the questionnaire expressed strong support for the imposition of stricter measures to regulate immigration and control Hungary’s borders (source in Hungarian). Therefore “The People” who according to the Orbán government’s new anti-migration sign decided that “The Country Must Be Defended” represent around ten percent of the eight million Hungarian citizens who received the National Consultation on Immigration and Terrorism.

For information regarding the Orbán government’s first anti-migration sign campaign see Sign War I.

For information regarding the sealing of the final gap in the Hungarian-Serbian border see The Curtain Falls Again.

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Sign War I

IF YOU COME TO HUNGARY YOU CANNOT TAKE AWAY THE WORK OF THE HUNGARIANS!

IF YOU COME TO HUNGARY YOU CANNOT TAKE THE WORK OF THE HUNGARIANS!

In June 2015, the Orbán government launched a 381-million-forint (1.2-million-euro) “informational campaign” connected to its National Consultation on Immigration and Terrorism (source in Hungarian). This campaign consists primarily of billboard signs displaying the following three messages, in Hungarian, to migrants who arrive to Hungary (source in Hungarian showing design of all three signs):  

IF YOU COME TO HUNGARY YOU CANNOT TAKE THE WORK OF THE HUNGARIANS! 

IF YOU COME TO HUNGARY YOU MUST RESPECT OUR CULTURE! 

IF YOU COME TO HUNGARY YOU MUST RESPECT OUR LAWS! 

People started to deface these signs immediately after their appearance on billboards in Budapest on June 5. Vice-President Péter Juhász of the opposition liberal party Együtt (Together) announced days before the signs appeared that “if they put them up, we will tear them down” (source in Hungarian). In the early morning of June 7, the Budapest Police arrested six activists from the party’s youth organization after seeing them obliterate the lettering on some of the signs with spray paint (source in Hungarian). Later on June 7, two people, one of them an employee of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ), turned themselves in to police after defacing one of the signs in a conscious act of civil disobedience against what TASZ referred to as the “government’s hate campaign” (source in Hungarian). Already on June 6, an interactive map of Hungary allowing users to identify the site of the government signs under the flag markers “untouched,” “modified” and “erased” appeared on the Internet (see map). In addition to the large number of signs that have been defaced and torn down, many have been creatively modified to deliver alternate messages (source in Hungarian, including gallery).

Below are Orange Files photographs of six signs in central Budapest, five of which have been defaced (click on any photo to see in gallery view):

 

On June 8, the farcical Hungarian Two-Tailed Dog Party (Magyar Kétfarkú Kutya Párt) and the pro-democracy Vastagbőr (Thick Skin) blog launched a campaign seeking three million forints in donations to pay for 50 billboard signs to counter those of the government (source in Hungarian). As of June 10, the campaign had already collected 18 million forints in donations (source in Hungarian).

Illustration from Vastagbőr blog.

Illustration from Vastagbőr blog article on collection of donations for counter signs.

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