Monday, August 17, 2009

Interviewing Hungary's far right

I'm just back from Hungary where one of my assignments has me exploring the reasons for the success of far-right political parties like Jobbik (and its uniformed paramilitary arm, the Magyar Garda.)

When I was last in Budapest, I wrote this piece for The Christian Science Monitor, and found communicating with Jobbik relatively straightforward. They had an international spokesman based in London, one Zoltan Fuzessy, who responded quickly and efficiently to interview requests.

Strangely enough, the party is becoming less media savvy as their popularity grows, with some truly bizarre notions about how to communicate their message to foreigners.

When I contacted their spokesmen, I received this media request form, which includes requests for a €250 "donation" (€100 for freelancers), detailed personal information, and to sign a pledge to respect their opinions (which is rather difficult to do in advance.)

Spokesman Zsolt Varkonyi explained that the donation was in fact voluntary and that the request for personal information was to ensure accountability, apparently by letting them know where you live. (He eventually agreed to answer my questions -- in writing -- without filling out the form, although it took over a month to get his responses. ) Fuzessy, for his part, accepted a Skype invitation but then didn't respond to any messages or calls; I can only surmise that he made me a contact so that I could read his motto: "Those to whom evil is done do evil in return."

Seems a strange way to try to win the hearts and minds of the press.

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