(Political Capital, 5 January 2021) Péter Krekó was interviewed by Politico about the challenges of anti-vaccination attitudes in Hungary late last year. Maintaining a distinctly pro-vaccination tone, Krekó analyzed the risk of mistrust in the vaccination, a fear found across the EU, especially in Hungary. Moreover, he talked about the dangers of overpromoting the notoriously unpopular Russian and Chinese vaccines. As a response, government-organized media started a brutally intense disinformation campaign against him and Political Capital Institute, totally misinterpreting his words in the article. Today, Politico made it absolutely clear that Krekó’s statement from 26 December was deliberately misrepresented by Hungarian government-controlled media. Political Capital is starting lawsuits against the media and journalists spreading falsehoods.
— Márta Pardavi (@martapardavi) January 5, 2021
The text states that:
HUNGARIAN DISTORTION: Péter Krekó, a prominent Hungarian think-tanker, has received death threats after a comment in a POLITICO article was misrepresented by pro-government media outlets and the country’s leadership. Speaking of the Hungarian government’s vaccination strategy, which for months focused on accessing vaccines from places such as Russia and China, Krekó said that “if you undermine the willingness of people to vaccinate themselves, [Viktor Orbán] can suffer the political consequences.”
Although the comment was clearly about Prime Minister Orbán’s strategy, pro-government media published dozens of articles falsely presenting it as encouraging opposition politicians to undermine confidence in vaccines and sacrifice citizens’ lives for political gain. In a radio interview over the weekend, Orbán himself declared that “one seldom hears a more evil sentence.” Krekó, executive director of the Political Capital Institute, a research and consulting organization, since has received threats directed at both himself and his family.
Based on these facts, Political Capital calls on the propagandists of government-organized media to stop their disinformation campaign. Political Capital is filing correction lawsuits against the government-controlled outlets spreading false information, and the authors of these articles, including Zsolt Bayer. Given that Péter Krekó recently won a legal case against government-controlled disinformation outlets such as 888, Figyelő and Origo, we are positive that we will win the battle on courts this time as well. The false narrative was spread in more than 100 articles and appearances so far.
Political Capital rejects hate-mongering based on paranoid delusions.
This case is not unique. Many members of NGOs, journalists, scholars and even artists became targets of similar state-sponsored disinformation attacks in the last few years. The attacks against us follow a typical recipe of personal and institutional smear campaigns.
This campaign will not silence Political Capital and its director. We will keep on fostering fact-based discussions and fighting disinformation, both domestically and internationally, for example, to strengthen trust in authorized vaccines. We are hoping that as many people receive the vaccines authorized by EU and domestic authorities as possible, and as swiftly as possible. Regardless, we still think that the governmental campaign advocating for Russian and Chinese vaccines can discourage citizens from vaccination – a conclusion consistently supported by polling data.
It is ironic that of the government’s propaganda hitmen, Zsolt Bayer launched a petition against us on a Russian disinformation campaign site called Citizengo, and defended the Sputnik V vaccine, which is unpopular not only in the Hungarian and Russian populations, but among Russian doctors as well. At the same time, in line with our original statement, the government announced recently that Sputnik-V will not be used for mass vaccinations in Hungary.
We genuinely think that more lives could be saved in the fight against COVID-19 in Hungary if communicators would spend their time and energy on promoting the benefits of secure, tested, authorized vaccines instead of creating ludicrous conspiracy theories against Péter Krekó and Political Capital.