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Stories from and

Hungarian Journalist Kidnapped, Then Released in Aleppo

Bálint Szlankó, a Hungarian foreign correspondent, was kidnapped – and later released – in Aleppo, Syria. He wrote this [en] on his Facebook page on Jan. 23:

Just been through a 12-hour kidnapping ordeal in Aleppo. Yesterday morning me, a Mexican and a Basque journalist were abducted by unknown gunmen near the Ezzaa frontline in eastern Aleppo. We were handcuffed, blindfolded and held in a cell for the rest of the day. Eventually we were stripped of all our possessions and left by the roadside in an abandoned area of the city. We then made our way to the headquarters of the Al Tawheed brigade, one of the main armed opposition groups in Aleppo. We are now well and unharmed and out of Syria. […]

Hungarian Radio Employee Defends Government on Hidden Camera Video published [hu] a hidden camera video of Fruzsina Tóth, a protester representing the students (she is also a first-year sociology student), talking to a woman who claimed to be a journalist of the Hungarian Radio. At the Dec. 17 protest, students demanded the Hungarian Radio to read their 5 + 1 points live. The hidden camera video was recorded when Ms. Tóth entered the building to hand the students’ petition to the radio's presenters. The woman on the video was defending the Hungarian government's decisions. (more…)

Sounding the Alarm on Hungary's New Electoral Law

Hungarian Spectrum posts an English translation of the appeal by the members of the pre-1989 Democracy Movement to organizations of the European Union, in which they share their concerns regarding the new electoral law:

If the next Hungarian elections in 2014 were to be held under the recently rammed-through rules, they would be illegitimate and fraudulent which would be a first in the European Union. […]

Hungary: Why Do We Have To Pay Attention To China?

‘Az igazi Mao’ blog [hu] is trying to draw attention to the contemporary China that Hungarian citizens may not be too familiar with; its title refers to a Hungarian experimental documentary, The Real Mao, which tells a fake story of former Chinese leader Mao Zedong. In a recent entry, ‘Az igazi Mao’ blog shared an infographic [hu] comparing the size, the economy, the population, as well as the number of luxury cars sold and junk food restaurants built, in Hungary and in China.

Azerbaijan: Political Forces United on Pardoned Axe Murderer

In Mutatione Fortitudo says that the two main opposition parties in Azerbaijan have united behind the government in its criticism of a European Parliament ruling condemning the 31 August pardon, release, and promotion of an Azerbaijani soldier who axed to death a sleeping Armenian counterpart on a NATO Partnership for Peace program in Budapest, Hungary, in 2004.

Hungary: Armenian Singer Condemns Diplomatic Failure

It seems that to some politicians money means more than the honour of their own country or their relations with other countries. This case could affect the stability of the whole region.

Lángoló Gitárok, a Hungarian music blog, has published an interview [hu] with Gaya Arutyunyan, a Hungary-based singer of Armenian origin.


European Union: A Survey Among Immigrants about Integration

Le café pédagogique links [pdf, fr] to the results of a survey launched in 15 cities from 7 U.E. countries, among immigrants in possession of their legal documents and with or without citizenship of their host countries. The questions were aimed at integration, which appears to be highly wished for.

Hungary: Tax Administration Investigates Citizen Activists

Véleményvezér blog commented [hu] on the news of the most popular citizen movement's activists being checked by the National Tax and Customs Administration, interpreting it as a sign of fear by the ruling party Fidesz: “Two years after [winning] a two-thirds [majority], they're already catching flies, they're chasing civil activists.” The movement being targeted now started from a Facebook page ‘One Million for the Freedom of Press in Hungary‘ (aka Milla; hu; over 99,000 followers) and organized several rallies against the new media law and the government's politics. On the Hungarian national holiday on March 15, Milla is planning to hold another rally.

Hungary: Culture Purge Proceeds

Hungarian Watch reports how yet another figurehead of Hungarian culture, György Szabó, has been ousted by authorities as director of the Trafó House of Contemporary Arts, making him yet another in an increasing row of deposed cultural representatives.

Hungary: President Accused of Plagiarism

Vastagbőr blog collected [hu] some internet memes about the President of Hungary Pál Schmitt, the newest of which appeared after news site published an article titled ‘Serious Suspicion of Plagiarism in Pál Schmitt's Ph.D. Dissertation‘ [hu]. According to, the President had allegedly plagiarized his dissertation (‘Analysis of the Modern Olympic Games Program’) from the text of a Bulgarian sports expert Nikolai Georgiev. The Presidential Office claims [hu] that Schmitt and Georgiev knew each other well personally, collaborated and used the same sources.

Parallels Between Religious and Copyright Wars

Rick Falkvinge, the founder of Pirate Party, reinterprets the wars of religion that devastated Western Europe in the XVI and XVII centuries in terms of the current struggle to control information through overbearing legislation related to copyright and freedom of expression:

The religious wars were never about religion as such. They were about who held the power of interpretation, about who controlled the knowledge and culture available to the masses. It was a war of gatekeepers of information.

Hungarian Blogger Leaks Secret Video on Illegal Voter Database

Gery Greyhound published a documentary [hu] on his Tumblr blog, about the ‘making of’ an illegal voter database in Pécs in 2009, when the city held a mid-term mayoral election. A similar leak took place in 2010, when a voice recording of Fidesz party director Gábor Kubatov was published online, revealing that the party had a registry of voting preferences of tens of thousands of voters. The case was referred to as the “Kubatov list.” Mr. Kubatov also appears in the current documentary, which was allegedly published by a person who participated in the production of the video meant for internal circulation.

Hundreds Rally Against Anti-Semitism in Hungary

Budapest, Hungary: the protest against anti-Semitism. Photo by David Ferenczy, copyright © Demotix (27/11/2012).

On Nov. 27, hundreds of people gathered in front of the Parliament in Budapest (photos) to protest a Hungarian far-right MP's call “for Jews to be registered on lists as threats to national security.” Some of the protesters wore yellow Stars of David. The rally took place despite the removal of the Facebook event page for it by Facebook admins.


Hungary: Cycle Chic Summit in Budapest

International Cycle Chic Bloggers

International Cycle Chic Bloggers @ Budapest. Photo by Mikael Colville Andersen, founder of the first cycle chic blog from Copenhagen. Used with permission.

Representatives of Amsterdam Cycle Chic, Berlin Cycle Chic, Copenhagen Cycle Chic, Vienna Cycle Chic and Vitória Cycle Chic gathered for a mini-summit in Budapest. This cycle chic event, organized by Hungarian Cycle Chic bloggers, was tied to a street fashion show. More photos are available here [hu].

Albania: Balkans Beyond Borders Short Film Festival

A poster for the Balkans Beyond Borders Short Film Festival 2012.

The Balkans Beyond Borders Short Film Festival 2012 opens in Tirana today. This is the third time that the festival is being held; this year's theme is “TALK TO ME – multilingualism and communication”; the program of the three-day event is here.

Azerbaijan: Nationalism, Extradition, and an Axe Murderer

Scary Azeri comments on the extradition to Azerbaijan of Ramil Safarov, an Azerbaijani soldier who murdered an Armenian counterpart on a NATO training course in Budapest, Hungary, with an axe. The blogger criticizes the presidential pardon and honoring of the killer in her native Azerbaijan while also abhorring the celebration of Safarov's freedom by many of her compatriots.

Hungary: New Freedom of Information Tool

Vastagbőr blog [hu] is promoting the use of's new website KiMitTud [‘WhoKnowsWhat’], which allows users to send freedom of information requests to any institutions responsible for spending public funds in Hungary. Vastagbőr wrote: “Those who have ever asked themselves these questions, ‘I wonder how much this cost?’ or ‘Who has been contracted to do this?’ should not wait but try to find out the answers themselves!” KiMitTud runs on’s engine and follows the examples of the UK-based WhatDoTheyKnow and AskTheEU, which is promoting transparency in the EU.

Slovakia, Hungary: Shrouded in Smog

Blogger Ulrika Lejnarová, highlighting air pollution data from the Slovak Hydrometeorological Institute [sk], wonders [sk] why Slovakia, while often paying attention to the critical conditions in Hungary [en], is doing little to inform its own citizens of the domestic situation adequately, in order to avoid health complications.

Hungary: Right-Wing Pro-Government Demonstrations

The Contrarian Hungarian reports that three right-wing demonstrations in support of the Hungarian government have taken place only this weekend, in protest against increased international pressure on Hungary for its defunct economy and political turmoil.

CEE: “Spotted by Locals”

Spotted by Locals: Experience cities like a local features a few dozen locations, including CEE cities of Belgrade, Bucharest, Budapest, Krakow, Ljubljana, Prague, Riga, Sofia, Tallinn, Vilnius, Warsaw, and Zagreb. A random sample post from Zagreb, Croatia: Hrelić Flea Market – The Aleph of Zagreb; from Bucharest, Romania: The Haunted House – Armenian Neighbourhood; from Sofia, Bulgaria: Nissim – A True Old-School Bookstore.

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