BUDAPEST — Ever since migrants from the Middle East, the Balkans and Africa began trickling over Hungary’s borders in early 2015, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has made a name for himself as a firebrand populist by demonizing them.
But there are limits to disparaging migrants in Mr. Orban’s Hungary.
A prominent journalist discovered that last week when Hungary’s Supreme Court ruled that he had offended the dignity of the nation by describing nomadic Magyar tribesmen known for their raids across Europe a millennium ago as “stinking” migrants. The Magyars settled in the region that has become modern Hungary, and have long been a touchstone of Hungarian nationalism.
The reference to the Magyars was in a 2018 opinion piece by Arpad W. Tota published by HVG, a current affairs weekly that is one of the few remaining independent online and print news sources in Hungary. In the article, Mr. Tota lambasted Hungarian prosecutors for not pursuing an alleged case of corruption involving European Union-funded projects and a member of Mr. Orban’s family. Hungarian law enforcement officials said they found no evidence of wrongdoing.
The court ordered the removal of the text and a public apology from HVG and awarded damages of around $1,000 to two private citizens who initiated the lawsuit.
Hungarians Don’t Steal, They Go on Adventures,” playing on the word in Hungarian for “adventures,” which can also imply the act of raiding.
Mr. Tota said he wanted to make the point that Hungary no longer had the rule of law under Mr. Orban, who has an iron grip on the country’s politics and has steadily eroded the independence of the justice system. That meant, he said, that liberal Europe needed to be firm in addressing corruption in Hungary.