Presenting in one concise package the week’s most important and fascinating national stories, whether they be economic, political, cultural, sporting or among the hundreds of other happenings that go on daily.
Előd Tóásó, the Hungarian-Romanian citizen taken into pre-trial detention in Bolivia on terrorism charges in 2009, arrived at Budapest’s Liszt Ferenc International Airport on Monday. Tóásó told a press conference he rejected the charge he had attempted to carry out a terrorist attack in Bolivia. He said that although he had left Bolivia legally, his departure was unexpected. The authorities had denied him his passport after being released from prison, and it was only thanks to the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade that he was given travel documents. Asked about his reasons for going to Bolivia, Tóásó said he went out of a thirst for adventure. He had been offered a job there as a web designer and was there to prepare a film shoot. Otherwise he had no other reason for traveling there. There remain, however, a number of unanswered questions in the case, Tóásó said, adding that he hoped the truth would one day be uncovered. Sándor Szenczy, the leader of Hungarian Baptist Aid, said the charity had been following Tóásó’s case for six years. Szenczy said a statement by the prosecutor in charge of the case – according to which the guns found in the 2009 raid against Tóásó and his group originated from the Bolivian police – cast further doubt on his guilt. Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó confirmed that the ministry had provided a temporary passport for Tóásó, who had received the same consular help as all Hungarians do when in trouble anywhere in the world. Tóásó was part of the group arrested by Bolivia’s special forces on suspicion of plotting a terrorist attack. Bolivian-Hungarian Eduardo Rózsa-Flores, an ethnic Hungarian from Romania, Árpád Magyarosi and Michael Dwyer, an Irishman, died in the police raid.
A young woman suffered serious injuries when a huge block of stone fell from a building at Oktogon and landed on her. She laid in the street completely motionless until medics arrived. A comment on news portal index.hu’s Facebook page said she had to be resuscitated but was eventually stabilised. The fire department then removed dangerous stones from the building.
Media still ‘partly free’: Freedom House
Freedom House (FH) has slightly downgraded Hungary and says the country’s media is still “partly free” in its global press freedom report for 2014. The Washington-based independent non-governmental organisation ranked Hungary 71st on its list of 197 countries, with a press freedom score of 37 out of 100. FH’s 2013 report also ranked Hungary 71st but with a press freedom score of 35. FH put Hungary in the “partly free” category for the fourth consecutive year. Press freedom deteriorated slightly as the government imposed a new advertising tax and continued to pressure media owners, FH said. The ad tax had disproportionately affected RTL Klub, one of the two major commercial television channels, which was the only company that fell into the highest tax bracket.
The number of suicides reported in Hungary fell 34% between 2000 and 2013, daily Magyar Nemzet said, citing the Central Statistical Office. There were 3,269 suicides reported in 2000 and 2,093 in 2013. The decline was least among middle-aged people, the paper said. Suicides by men were 3.5 times as high as those by women. The most frequent method was hanging.
The covers can be removed from tobacco shop windows and only the products must be hidden from sight, public news channel M1 has reported. The issue of dark foil covers on the windows came into focus over a recent murder of a shop assistant in Kaposvár after critics said the coverings invited crime. Cabinet chief János Lázár said the law on tobacco shops will be amended if necessary to protect shop assistants and people working night shifts. Some shop owners have started using inside blinds to cover tobacco products instead of foil on windows. The law says tobacco products cannot be on display in a shop for under-age people to see. A cabinet meeting would address the issue, M1 said. The opposition LMP party spokesman Ákos Hadházy said the law, just past its second-year anniversary, is flawed on many accounts. Hadházy said it had paved the way to corruption, a strengthening of the black market for tobacco, the demise of small retailers and crime in the shops. He called on the government to axe the law.
Marking International Workers’ Day, the ruling Fidesz party said its government has consistently represented hard-working people since 2010. The opposition parties, in turn, complained about low wages and corruption. Fidesz said the introduction of the flat-tax rate, the reduced personal income tax and the re-introduction of family allowances have decreased the tax burden on citizens by HUF 3,600 billion. The government had supported job-boosting investment projects, launched a job-protection scheme and made fostered work schemes available to those who failed to find other employment. Opposition Socialist leader József Tóbiás said Hungary is in trouble because extremist ideologies have been allowed to gain popularity on the right and are combined with corruption in “the Fidesz-Jobbik world”. After meeting trade union leaders, Tóbiás said the new labour code has made it impossible to protect worker interests. He called for a 50% increase in the minimum wage and said trade unions agree with the Socialists that Sunday work should be allowed but a 200% premium should be paid. Ferenc Gyurcsány, leader of the Democratic Coalition, said “six million forgotten Hungarians” who have been let down during the past 25 years of post-communist transformation must be served justice. Gyurcsány said the government is based on theft and deception, with relatives, friends and insiders growing rich while the majority gets worn out.