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Left-wing weeklies on Pegasus allegations

July 26th, 2021

Liberal and left-wing weeklies take it for granted that the government used counter-terrorism spyware to monitor its critics.

168 Óra in a first page editorial ponders the potentially broader implications of the Pegasus scandal. But the left-wing weekly gives little credence to the possibility that the case will become a ‘Hungarian Watergate’ – even if the allegations prove well-founded. The authors suggest that – even if just a fraction of the allegations are substantiated – the government will not be harmed. On the contrary, it may even benefit from the scandal, as its critics will become even more cautious and ‘inside sources’ may stop leaking information to independent media, out of fear that they may be identified. 168 Óra concludes by suggesting that only another revolt akin to the 1956 and the 1989 revolution would help to break the government’s hegemony.

In Heti Világgazdaság, Áprád W. Tóta contends that the most important lesson of the Pegasus scandal is that the government can tap whomever it wants. The liberal pundit notes that, under the relevant Hungarian legislation, the government may legally  monitor basically anyone whom they consider potentially involved in ‘criminal activity’. Tóta takes it for granted that the government uses this extraordinarily broad power to spy on its critics. He also suspects that the Pegasus scandal will have huge repercussions in Europe and will lead to the further isolation of the Hungarian government. In order to save face, the government may use the information it has gathered through the spyware to blackmail its critics, or to publicly accuse them of being involved in criminal activity.

Magyar Narancs, in a first page editorial, contends that the Pegasus scandal shows that Prime Minister Orbán is using state power, not to defend the national interest, but to monitor and control those who threaten his political and economic interests – independent businessmen and journalists who unveil corruption. The liberal weekly believes that, unless the opposition wins the 2022 Parliamentary election, the Hungarian government may increasingly come to resemble those fully-fledged dictatorships that use physical violence to oppress and silence their critics.

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