CBC misses the mark on Roma issues in Hungary

December 19, 2012 There are numerous media sources which are held in high esteem around the world. They derive their strength from the professional, unbiased, balanced approach that remains at the core of solid journalism. It is, after all, our common goal to provide the most accurate and authoritative information to as many as possible.

CBC’s questionable standards

CBC TV The National aired a special “Seeking Safety” on December 12, 2012 which spoke to the perceived degradation of Hungarian democracy and the plight of Roma minorities fleeing Hungary for the relative safety of Canada.

While we acknowledge the need to find a resolution to the Roma issue, both in Hungary and Europe, it is of the utmost importance that CBC and others adhere to the highest standards and provide their viewers with the most equitable and objective information.

This standard was unfortunately not met with CBC’s “Seeking Safety” documentary which outright stated that “Hungary is becoming more authoritarian and less democratic”.

Hungary’s European standards

It is paramount that, at the outset, we emphasize that Hungary, its institutions, and its constitution represent and enshrine the most treasured European values of human rights, rule of law, and respect for the diversity that is present in Hungary and the region. Hungary is also member of the European Union, which was recently awarded a Nobel-piece prize.

As with any country, social issues permeate the fabric of the nation.

Hungary a leader on Roma issues

While Canada tackles its historical obligations and disparities among its aboriginal population for example; Hungary is equally determined to provide its most vulnerable individuals and groups the benefits and lifestyle accessible to all Hungarians.

Since 1993 – and soon to be reinforced in related legislation – the Roma of Hungary, unlike anywhere else in Europe, are guaranteed parliamentary representation – currently four sitting members – as permanent partners within Hungary’s federal and local governments (1).During the Hungarian European Union (EU) Presidency, the government proposed a far-reaching and consensus-based strategy for Roma in Europe. This ten-year strategy commits to reducing poverty levels, improving and guaranteeing access to education, opening new and rewarding employment options, and tackling social disparities between Roma and non-Roma through tangible cooperative solutions.

This strategy was adopted by all members of the European Union.

The one-sided CBC

CBC failed to even make a cursory reference to this initiative or its unprecedented strategic goals for Europe’s Roma peoples.

Furthermore, CBC decided to portray the Hungarian people as affable to racist, xenophobic, and tyrannical ideologies. Applying generalizations of this nature often implies a lack of proper information and unjustly victimizes a nation and its people, in this case Hungary and Hungarians. This is the message conveyed by the documentary by highlighting selective and isolated incidents.

Aside from Hungary’s gallant and well-known stand against communism and authoritarian regimes in the twentieth century Hungarians have demonstrated many times their distastes of any discriminatory and inflammatory gestures.

The Hungarian government and courts, both past and present have condemned declarations made by Jobbik – an opposition Party – and, since 2009, have banned its radical wing, the Magyar Garda – a fact recognized by the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board (2). So why did the documentary keep focusing on old footage of the Garda outlawed and banned more than three years ago.

Once again, this fact received no mention by CBC and should have featured prominently as it was verified by the Canadian government. It is telling furthermore that the Canadian government has just recently designated Hungary and 27 other countries as ‘safe’ (3) –notwithstanding the immigration lawyer’s assertion at the end of the documentary that ”The situation in Hungary is anything but safe.”

CBC’s questionable ”facts”

Further to our belief that the duty of media is to portray a balanced approach, CBC, we believe, has greatly damaged the credibility of its reporting by employing what was referred to as Hungary “experts”.Neither former EU MP Mohacsi Viktoria nor Christopher Adam is foreign to controversy, and they most definitely do not represent Canadian Hungarians or the Roma peoples. Ms. Mohacsi has often been the perpetrator of inflammatory and unjustified accusations without regard for facts or consequences. She was recently indicted by a Hungarian court for making false accusations after ‘‘seeking asylum’’ in Canada.

During the high-profile and tragic proceedings surrounding the murder of Romanian handball player Marian Cozma in Veszprém, Hungary, Ms. Mohacsi declared – but later retracted – that Cozma was responsible for provoking a group of Roma, thus leading to his murder. Both the courts and CCTV footage proved, beyond any doubt, that Marian Cozma was targeted and attacked without reason and was a victim of a heinous organized attack by Roma (4).It should have been the responsibility of CBC to report these and other events which reveal a tangible and very real criminal problem among the Roma. It is however saddening that Ms. Mohacsi has experienced threatening correspondence – if in fact this was the case – and this most certainly must be condemned. But it should be equally condemned that she is the one who fled from prosecution in Hungary to seek asylum in Canada.

Likewise, Christopher Adam, a contract instructor at Carleton University, neither teaches dedicated Hungarian history courses nor shares the credentials of countless Hungarian experts at universities or in lay society across Canada. Mr. Adam’s referral to an unsourced document during the documentary speaks to an alarming lack of credibility.

NAHC’s commitment

The National Alliance of Hungarians in Canada (NAHC) feels that its duty and mission is to further the cause of human rights and, in doing so, be the hub of accurate, reliable, and balanced resources accessible to all. The National Alliance of Hungarians in Canada condemns all racial, religious, and ethnic discrimination and anti-Semitism in all forms. We remain unaffiliated with any political party or lobby group.

We believe that CBC has surrendered to generalizations and the dramatized case of isolated incidences such as that of the Balogh family. It is in our common interest that the proper organizations and individuals be consulted in the Hungarian community so that CBC and others provide the highest standard of journalism – deserving of its name.

  1. “Hungarian National Social Inclusion Strategy”, Ministry of Public Administration and Justice, State Secretariat for Social Inclusion, Budapest, December 2011.
  2. Responses to Information Requests, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, September 29, 2011. http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca:8080/RIR_RDI/RIR_RDI.aspx?id=453599&l=e
  3. Kenney names 27 countries as ‘safe’ in refugee claim dealing.” CBC, December 14, 2012.4. “Mohácsi Viktória: ‘cigányozott Cozma feltehetöleg’”, HirCity, March 4, 2009.http://www.hircity.hu/regiok/53934