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Hungary's ruling Fidesz proposes banning “political” billboard ads outside campaign period

Fidesz will propose banning all political billboard posters outside the election campaign period, the party's deputy group leader told a news conference.

Gulyás called attention to a current billboard campaign launched by far-right party Jobbik, which overtly accuses prominent Fidesz members (including Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his propaganda minister Antal Rogán) of corruption. The Fidesz politician alleged that Jobbik's campaign makes it obvious that the party is working together with oligarch-in-exile and Fidesz's former money man, Lajos Simicska.
The bill, proposed by Fidesz delegation spokesman János Halász, will prevent the kind of corruption made evident by Jobbik's political ad campaign, Gulyás said, and will also cut down on shady party financing and make campaign financing more transparent. Whoever votes for the bill is standing up against corruption, the Fidesz member claimed unironically.
The presence of such a widespread billboard propaganda campaign as Jobbik's , which threatens to counter the constant propagandizing orchestrated by Fidesz but disguised as messages delivered straight from "the government", appears to have prompted the ruling party to seek an end to government-critical advertising outside campaign periods.
Should anyone get the wrong idea that Fidesz is attempting to limit the expression of critical political opinion, by way of assurance, Gulyás called the move "self-restraint" on the part of the Fidesz-KDNP ruling coalition.
But such "self-restraint" has long been in short supply in the government when it comes to conducting billboard campaigns. One of the favorite tools of the government, billions of forints are spent every year (typically in contracts awarded to Fidesz-friendly media oligarchs) to cover the country in explicitly political advertising, often to urge support in the newest round of National Consultations, or to stir up anger and hatred in the case of the shamelessly xenophobic anti-immigrant campaign launched just prior to the beginning of the refugee crisis.
Although the Fidesz-proposed bill would limit the government's use of political billboard advertising outside campaign season, it is unclear whether such campaigns as the aforementioned would be considered "political." It could be that the bill would simply prohibit parties from using political speech on billboards outside of certain times, and continue to allow Fidesz to use state funds to push its agenda as it hides behind the cynical by-line of "the government."
Gábor Staudt of Jobbik said in a statement that the proposal "puts dictatorships of developing countries to shame", infringed on the freedom of expression and opinion and was likely unconstitutional. "Fidesz will stop at nothing to make campaigning for the opposition impossible and its own messages the only ones available", he said. By the same standards, ads appearing in media outlets could also be banned, he said. The media is, however, largely government dominated, and so Fidesz has no interest in curbing ads there, he said.
Meanwhile the Hungarian government claims that 1.68 million people took part in the latest so-called National Consultation, and has initiated a taxpayer-funded "Thank You" campaign to show its appreciation. In a style by now familiar, the government has begun erecting blue and yellow signs and billboards around the country thanking Hungarian citizens for participating in the "Most successful National Consultation of all time." The signs also bear the text, "Hungary is a strong and proud European Country."
The subtext of this newest message is ironic, given that the consultation bore the europhobic title, "Let's Stop Brussels," and was accompanied by a months-long propaganda campaign stirring up resentment of the European Union through the misleading and deliberately manipulative questions of the "consultation."
A Fidesz representative earlier called the consultation results proof that a majority of Hungarians support the government, and reject the misguided immigration policies of the EU.
Pro-government daily Magyar Idők also reported, failing to cite sources, that over 90 percent of respondents, "an overwhelming majority," support the "bill on transparency of foreign-funded organizations."
Howver, no official information has been publicized, nor is it likely to be, which would verifiably corroborate the data on the consultation alleged by the government or its media.
Magyar Idők, in its report on the forthcoming gratitude campaign, hinted at a "results" campaign to come later.
The rate of participation in the consultation, as well as data related to responses, is inherently unreliable: as we reported earlier, the online version of the consultation questionnaire was wide-open to abuse and fraud, and did not have even the most basic security measures to ensure that respondents were Hungarian citizens, or that people could fill out only a single questionnaire. Additionally, the content of the questionnaire was uniformly rejected by polling experts, social scientists and political scientists, as well as the European Commission, which issued a point-by-point rebuttal of the consultation questions.

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 June 2017 18:59

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