Detained In Hungary For Criticizing The Government On Social Media

Be arrested for criticizing the Government on social networks. What seems like news from an authoritarian country happened this week in Hungary, in the middle of the EU, where two men were arrested and interrogated for hours for expressing their discomfort at the government’s management of the coronavirus crisis.

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The arrests, described by critics of the ultra-nationalist Executive as an attempt to intimidate, took place applying a recent law that condemns with prison terms the dissemination of “alarmist” information about the virus.

REVIEWS ON FACEBOOK

“You are a cruel despot. But don’t forget that, until now, all dictators have fallen,” was one of the comments written on Facebook by András Kusinkszki, a 64-year-old man.

For his part, János Csóka-Szücs, a member of the opposition Momentum party, recalled in one of his messages on the same social network a demonstration against the Government and added that the hospital in his city had emptied more than 1,100 beds in order to care for patients of COVID-19.

Both were detained a day apart and the time of their arrests was recorded by the Hungarian Police, which released the videos on the Internet.

The messages published by both critics had been seen and forwarded by just dozens of people.

Controversial law

The police acted in both cases on suspicion that the detainees had violated the law that prohibits the dissemination of alarmist information.

However, in both cases the Hungarian Prosecutor’s Office has determined that no crime was committed, so the Police promised to proceed as indicated by the Justice.

According to official police data, the authorities are investigating 87 cases of possible alarmism.

The opposition and NGOs claim that these arrests serve only to intimidate citizens and thus minimize criticism of the government of ultra-nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

EXTRAORDINARY POWERS

The Hungarian Parliament, in which the Orbán Fidesz has a two-thirds majority, granted the government special powers in March to manage the coronavirus crisis, without specifying for how long.

The legal package includes an amendment that provides penalties of up to five years in prison for spreading what it describes as “false” or “alarmist” information that makes the fight against the coronavirus difficult or impossible.

The European Commissioner for Securities and Transparency, Vera Jourová, promised on Thursday that the European Commission will monitor whether Hungary progressively removes restrictions to contain the pandemic.

TWO ARRESTS IN TWO DAYS

Last Tuesday the Police reported the arrest of András Kusinszki near Szerencs, in the east of the country, for having “published false claims” on the coronavirus on a social network.

After his release, the man explained to an opposition website that the agents went to look for him at dawn and that in the interrogation the agents wanted to know again and again who he was referring to when speaking of “dictator”.

In the other part of his message, he criticized the lifting of restrictions that began on May 4, just when the contagion with the virus was at its maximum, which – according to Kusinszki – seems to be premeditated in order to infect more people.

“We live in a small city. The police know that I am not a criminal,” said the detainee, stressing that neither the police nor the prosecution knew what to do with their case.

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