“Freedom Is Not the Property of the Liberals”
Hungary’s controversial prime minister Viktor Orbán gives his first interview to an American journalist.
I think that is unfair. I would say outside observers are worried about the way your country seems to be going and that there seems to be no representation of anything except your point of view. The head of the Media Council is a Fidesz Party member and a friend of yours. The head of the National Judicial Office is a friend of yours.
Let's separate the two issues. The Media Council members are elected by the parliament.
But they are all from your party.
That is not true. In the previous system, delegates were based on party background. Therefore we decided not to have party representation and only those persons could be members of the council who are supported by the parliament.
Isn't the head of the Media Council, Annamária Szalai, a member of Fidesz?
Yes, she is. She was a member of our caucus. What is the problem with that?
Why would you have a party person deciding who should receive radio frequencies? Why would a party person go into the state television station and say
It is a council. It doesn't run any television.
But it gives out licenses.
The media in Hungary is 90 percent private.
But you have a big state television station.
We have a small state television station, but we also have enormous private ones. At least 75 percent of the Hungarian media is foreign-owned. So go to the owners and ask them why they are not ready to provide proper media freedom.
I met Antonia Meszaros (from ATV), who was fired from state TV after she interviewed you.
I would not like to defend any individual decision of any organization that is not known to me.
What about [principal opposition station] Klub Radio? What happened to their frequency? Why did you threaten to take it away?
As far as I know it was a political discussion in Hungary. They lost a bid.
But there were conditions for Klub Radio to get the license—they had to increase music to 50 percent programming and diminish news programming. And so you gave the tender offer to someone else.
The license ran out and then there was a bid for it, as there is for all frequencies. If there is any kind of feeling that their interest is not respected, they can go to court and they have done so. And they won.
But is the government acting in an even-handed fashion toward those in the print media that oppose the government? The government gives out advertising to the print media.
The government owns some companies—like an electric company or an oil company—and they run advertising. Try to imagine Hungary as at least as democratic a country as the United States.
You cannot put your people at the head of every authority and say it's as democratic as the United States.
That is not true. The first constitutional court judge nominated by the new parliament was a previous MP of the Socialist Party, which is in opposition now. The vice chairman of the national accounting office is a previous MP of the Socialist Party. The budgetary council, which is one of the most powerful institutions in this country, has three members—two members are from the left. How is it you say all institutions are run by us?
What about the IMF loan discussions—are you willing to satisfy the IMF's conditions?
We don't know what the conditions are.
Yes, you do. They are very upset about your treatment of the central bank.
They said they need an opinion from the European Union that the regulation of the national bank is fine. They asked me to do certain things and we have done so. We had a plan to unify the national bank and the state financial authority office. The European Union disagreed about that and therefore we decided not to unite them.
Lally Weymouth is a senior associate editor of the Washington Post.