Hungarian police blogger missing

Henrik, from Hungarian Accent blog reports the worrying story of a policeman blogger from Budapest whose blog – Police – has closed down mysteriously, and who appears to be missing:

“At Nyugati square we waited for an hour for Police, with whom we would have had a meeting scheduled for 10 at the rotating clock, but as he did not arrived by 11, we went into some pizzeria instead to have breakfast and to warm up as we were freezing. I don’t know what could have happened to Police, he is unreachable via phone all day and his blog interestingly is erased either by Freeblog or by himself, although I consider that latter option unlikely. Anyway I hope nothing happened to him and he will show up by evening.”

Henrik points out that information about ths police bloggers disappearance is scarce, but is nonetheless worried.

The Northern Irish Magyar adds a little context to the case, suggesting that offending the wrong people in Hungary can have serious consequences:

Hungarian “Businessmen” or politicians are not great believers in the concept of an independent and feisty media, or actually any general exchange of information.

Couple of wrong words in the wrong open forum and before you can mutter “freedom of speech” you’ll be hauled up in front of the Biro or be making an unscheduled appoitment with several baseball bats down a back street.

If true, this puts the recent story about a British police blogger who closed because he was worried he would face disciplinary action into perspective. And even more alarming perhaps – this is happening in a EU member state.
Whether there is anything to this story, or whether it’s all a big mix up, it’s probably too early to say for sure.  But I’ll keep an eye out for news.

Silvio Berlusconi storms out of interview

From the BBC comes this report of Italiam Prime Minister Belusconi storming out of a live tv interview – apparently Berlusconi took offense at a question about his business dealings:

“You can’t tell me what to do,” he said as the conversation descended into bickering and he accused her of bias.

“This is my show, I’ll decide the questions,” Ms Annunziata retorted.

She told him he was “not used to taking journalists’ questions”.

You know, every time parliamentarians in Russia, or South Korea get into a fight, or storm out of an interview, we laugh at them.  ‘Oh, democracy is new in that part of the world,’ we say.  ‘They’ll get the hang of it.’  Or the horrendously condescending ‘They’re a bit tempramental over there, aren’t they?”
But what is Italy’s excuse?  Why on earth do the people of a leading industrial nation, with a long established democracy, put up with the antics of this idiot who again and again brings their country into disrepute?

Milosevic dead

Former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic was found dead in his jail cell this morning:

BBC News24 are reporting that he died was of natural causes, although they also mentioned that he had recently been trying to avoid taking medication for his heart condition.

His death is probably the best news for Serbia’s political development in many a year, certainly since his overthrow. Instead of a real live political martyr rotting away in the Hague, Serbian nationalists will have to focus on the far less attractive figure of a dead political martyr, rotting in his grave.

And good news, to be honest, for the West, whose overly earnest attempts to bring Milosevic to justice in the Hague but, at the same time, to be ridiculously fair to the defendant, have been made a mockery of by Milosevic’s (successful) attempts to drag out his trial for years on end.

Anyway, the man’s dead now. Let’s all move on.

Update: Neil Clark isn’t happy.  He titles his post ‘Death of a Political Prisoner‘  and strongly hints that the Hague is responsible by ommission for his death – apparently, they’ve been ignoring medical warnings that he was about to have a heart attack.

Milosevic’s only crime- as I have said no many occasions, was getting in the way of The Empire. For doing that, he has paid a very heavy price. May he Rest in Peace.

Well, it’s an opinion, I suppose.

Hungarian politician to present cartoon of Belarussian President to British Prime Minister

A very odd story indeed.

A Slovakian organisation arranged an auction of satirical cartoons of Alexander Lunkashenko, the authoritarian President of Belarus:

One of the most expensive pictures drawn by SME caricaturist Shooty, became a subject of tough competition between the leader of the Hungarian Coalition Party Béla Bugár and U.S. Ambassador Rodolphe Vallee. Bugár won and bought the picture for 30.000 SKK. He commented that he would give it as a present to British Prime Minister Tony Blair at a joint dinner the same day. Bugár also got the next picture on auction – to give it as a present to the USA President George Bush next week.

Tony and George will, I am sure, be thrilled.

Montenegro polling nonsense

Montenegro will hold a referendum on EU membership in May, but alarmingly the EU and Montenegran governments are still squabbling over just how the referendum should be organised.

The EU has it’s position.

In a decision that has outraged analysts, Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign policy chief, is insisting that for it to be valid, at least 55% of voters casting ballots must opt for independence. EU foreign ministers are expected to bless the Solana proposal today.

And Montenegro has a rather different position:

But the Montenegrin government has indicated it is against the guidelines. It wants the secession vote to be valid if at least 41 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots. It is not clear whether it would accept the 55 percent approval requirement or whether it would press for approval by a simple majority of those who vote

Both of which, it has to be said, are absolutely barking ways to decide a referendum. 

What on earth is wrong with the old fashioned 50% or 66% requirements?  If you really want to get technical, I suppose you could add a requirement for 50% of the electorate to turn out to make the vote valid.

But to pick numbers like 55% and 41% respectively out of the air is the most blatantly stupid politicking imaginable, and will do nothing for the credibility of the poll, the Montengran government, or the EU. 

A whole other world

From Balkan blogger Eric, a sneak peak at the application form questions you’ll need to answer if you want that dream job at the Croatian Foreign Ministry:

Apparently the examination for job candidates at the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs includes, among its 300 questions, items asking people what sort of sexual practices they prefer.

Plus, as an extra-special bonus – in the comments, news from someone who was asked in a job interview whether he had ever entertained thoughts of killing his mother.

The ever-expanding Eurovision empire

Armenia, one of the last enclaves of musical freedom has finally fallen to the might of Eurovision:

So it looks like we’re definitely in the Eurovision song contest this year..and Andre ( who was voted best male singer of 2005 ) will be representing us with a song called “Without Your Love” sung in English, and written by Armen Martirosian – a well known composer and conductor of Jazz orchestra if I’m not mistaken.

This is a huge step for Armenia, as not only has it’s tv network fulfilled broadcasting rules implied by the EBU , it has also, along with Georgia, redefined the broadcasting area of “Europe” which used to exclude Armenia and Georgia, classing them as Asia. Now they are European, or so it seems! The EBU says it has no further plans for expansion, so , we did good!

Although, yes, I will grudgingly admit that conforming to EBU rules is a success story for Armenian broadcasting, and does show the country’s business climate in a positive light.

But still – they could have turned down the offer and gloated about preserving their freedom, couldn’t they?

Gay Pride parade in Moscow banned

Andrew Sullivan writes about the cancellation of the Moscow gay pride parade. In his article – entitled “How Muslim Blackmail Works” – he heavily implies that it was cancelled in large part because of Muslim protests.

While I agree with the key point Andrew making about not self-censoring, I was a little disappointed that the way his post written heavily implied that the parade was cancelled because of Muslim outrage. The exact words he used were

“It was canceled after the chief Muslim leader in Russia warned that marchers would be “bashed” if they dared to walk the streets.”).

Lets be clear about this – parades in Moscow are not cancelled because of pressure from the Muslim community.

While the Muslim community was, in this case, in step with the general consensus in Russia, their opinion had had zero impact on the decision to cancel the parade.  The gay pride parade in Moscow was never going to get approval from the city government, because of general homophobia in Russia, and the hostility of the Russian orthodox church to homsexuality.

Even last year, Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov said that he would never approve the parade:

“If I receive such a letter, I will refuse,” Luzhkov told the Interfax news agency late Friday, explaining that he “guards the Muscovites’ interests, and the capital’s inhabitants would be categorically set against such an initiative.”

Extreme hostility towards gays in the former Soviet Union isn’t uncommon, and there were even problems holding a gay pride parade in Riga, Latvia last summer. Then, even the Latvian Prime Minister felt it appropriate to weigh in:

“For sexual minorities to parade in the very heart of Riga, next to the Doma church, is unacceptable,” he told LNT television on Wednesday.

And this was in the European Union!

Having said that, though, from my own private observations whilst living in Russia (a couple of years ago now), acceptance of homosexuality does seem to be increasing. In the Siberian city of Irkutsk, for example, a major local nightclub used to hold well attended fortnightly gay nights. You definitely wouldn’t want to be caught out on the streets kissing your boyfriend though.

Love across the lines

Every week in his profiles of leading bloggers, Norm Geras asks:

Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own?

Some people say yes.  Most say no.

So, it’s nice to see this story of love across the political and national divides in Belgium, although the Belgian public’s reaction doesn’t seem to have been to conciliatory.

HE IS a senior conservative politician, she a young Socialist MP, but it is not only a political clash of allegiances that has turned the love affair between Hendrik Daems and Sophie Pécriaux into such a big scandal in Belgium.

Nor was it the announcement by Daems, 46, that he is divorcing the mother of his five-year-old daughter and having a child by Pécriaux, 38. Their greater crime — strange as it may seem in 21st-century Europe — was loving across a cultural divide between Flemings and Walloons. Daems paid for it last week with his job.

I think it’s great to see, and I can’t wait to see news of the first great love-match between a Tory and Labour MP splashed across the front page of The Times.

I doubt Daem’s soon to be ex-wife is all that thrilled with their union though.