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Clinton and Rice in Budapest

July 4th, 2011

Striking differences were apparent in the press coverage of the visits of two US Secretaries of State to Budapest. Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice came to unveil the monument to Ronald Reagan, while her successor, Hillary Clinton spoke at the opening ceremony of the Tom Lantos Institute.

Not only are events interpreted in divergent ways in the ever partisan local media, the facts themselves are reported differently this time.

In an opening sentence rich with sarcasm, Gábor Horváth, deputy editor-in-chief of Népszabadság remarks that Prime Minister Orbán “has not managed to get away with” his controversial legislative record. “Hillary Clinton proved less polite than Viktor Orbán’s previous guest, the Chinese PM. In a diplomatic but resolute manner, the US Secretary of State brought up the deficiencies of the constitution, the Media Act and Hungarian democracy in general.” This visit can by no means be interpreted as proof that Washington has no problem with what is going on in Hungary – Gábor Horváth comments.

A headline in the pro-government Magyar Hírlap, by way of contrast, reads: “Hillary Clinton rejects attacks by the Hungarian opposition which question the democratic character of the state of affairs in this country”.

Reporting on Hillary Clinton’s meeting with representatives of the opposition and NGOs, including former Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai, Magyar Hírlap quotes Socialist Party chairman Attila Mesterházy who told the Secretary of State that “democratic values are being trampled underfoot”. “According to Hillary Clinton, however, as long as a government can be voted out of office in democratic elections, it would be impossible to claim that there is no democracy. She also pointed out that the two thirds majority which Fidesz enjoys is the result of free elections,” – adds Magyar Hírlap, quoting LMP leader András Schiffer who also attended the meeting.

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