The threads of the Hungarian story revolving around falsified news lead all the way to Brussels. Staff working for a left-wing MEP filmed a fictitious video and later presented it as factual information to attack the measures taken by the Hungarian government. As a result, Hungary’s media landscape has been dominated by the left’s news falsification scandal for a week now. As it turned out, with the help of the staff (or a staff member) of an MEP, several Hungarian opposition politicians have become implicated in a peculiar case of falsifying news, which stigmatised the whole Hungarian opposition as liars.
The story begins with the left-wing chairman of the Hungarian parliament’s public welfare committee, who came up with a video. The lead character narrating the story claimed that he was an ambulance officer and made serious allegations about the outcome of the government’s measures taken to curb the coronavirus epidemic. It took less than 24 hours to uncover the truth: the Hungarian Socialist Party made a fictitious little film and then presented its contents as factual information to the general public. Hungary’s opposition media outlets were quick to pick up on the story, which neatly dovetailed into their narrative, without running any research or background checks on who the woman featured in the video was
This is not the first time the Hungarian left has tried to generate public attention with lies with regard to the country’s coronavirus emergency response. Ill-prepared journalists were seen and heard echoing these lies on several instances. One of them was CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour, who based her entire show on the claim that Hungary was a dictatorship because PM Viktor Orban had suspended parliament. She presumably relied on information conveyed by the opposition which she had failed to fact-check, only to face the fact in a live interview that the Hungarian parliament was not only sitting, but the opposition was also in regular attendance during its sessions. Besides being present, they also delivered several speeches, sometimes even expressing their views on the handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Although this misinformation held up for weeks, it was eventually debunked.
As to the latest case of falsifying news, the incident deserves special attention because the one who came up with the lie is paid by the European Parliament, meaning the misinformation was funded by Brussels. MEP Istvan Ujhelyi recently admitted that the video had been made by his colleague. However, he writes in a letter that Tamas Lajos Szalay only helped him with the techical aspects of the video, and had nothing to do with its content.
V4NA has contacted the President of the European Parliament to inquire whether the incident – with an EP-funded employee’s suspected involvement in the making of the video – would be investigated. We also wrote to Istvan Ujhelyi’s party group to ask whether they intended to distance themselves from such production of fake news or it would now be used as a recognised method of the European left. We also asked if they were afraid that voters would no longer believe them even if they told the truth.