Judit Varga – Photo: BZT / Nóra Halász

Justice minister: Europe embroiled in ‘truth war’

Europe is embroiled in a "truth war" being fought over "our future, the survival of the Hungarian nation and a European future that values the diversity of nations", the justice minister told a conference in Budapest on Thursday.

The freedom of expression is a fundamental right guaranteed by Hungary’s constitution “even if those in Brussels refuse to acknowledge this in certain rule-or-law reports”, Judit Varga told the event organised by the Hungarian National Media Association, the Centre for Fundamental Rights and the Batthyany Lajos Foundation.

She said that like the Hungarian political scene, the media landscape was also diverse, but Brussels often attempted to “conflate certain ideas” related to the media when it came to the debate on the state of the rule of law in Hungary. Varga said the idea of the press and the freedom of expression were often conflated with the idea of media pluralism in Brussels. “While one of those is a fundamental right . in European democracies, the other is a matter connected to the market and comes down to a multitude of decisions made by founders and owners,” she said.

She said the EU was applying double standards to Hungary when it came to the media, arguing that “they often fail to consider that in many European countries a significant share of media outlets are owned by large foundations which openly favour a given ideology.”

Varga said the European Union did not have a uniform set of criteria for how a country’s media scene should look, adding that the Hungarian media landscape conformed to the existing European standards.

Meanwhile, the minister said the disagreements between conservatives and liberals were not about freedoms but about values.

“It’s a war of worlds. We’re engaged in a debate about values and the classical progressive liberal side which has lost its identity is trying to find a way to attack us,” she said.

Hungary’s government sees cooperation among strong nation states, rather than a supranational system, as the way forward, Varga said.

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