Laudation speech of Gábor D. Horváth at the Charta XXI Reconciliation Award ceremony

Honored guests, ladies and gentlemen!

The recipient of the first annual Reconciliation and Cooperation award is Štefan Hríb. The Slovak newspaper reporter was born fifty years ago in Bratislava. He began to cover the cataclysmic events of Central-East European events that began in 1989.

He gained knowledge of the various areas of the media. He worked as a reporter for Radio Free Europe, worked for the daily newspaper, Lidove Noviny, and wrote articles for the weekly journal, Domino Forum, where he eventually became editor-in-chief. He supervised the program Hálóban (In the net) on Slovak public television, later producing an independent program called Lámpa alatt (In the spotlight). It must be noted that the name of this program, spotlight, symbolizing illumination or enlightenment, is a constant characteristic of his work. The Lámpa alatt was truly an intellectual program, becoming a forum where conversations ranged over real everyday topics. Between the stimulating arguments, hitherto unknown alternative bands were introduced to the viewers.

In 2005, he founded the weekly journal, .týždeň, which translates in Hungarian to The Week, of which he is the editor-in-chief to this day.

The disposition, value system, viewpoint and responsiveness to questions of everyday life, The Slovak .týždeň can be compared to the Hungarian Heti Válasz (Weekly Answer). According to its readers, it is anti-Communist; in its relationship with national values and achievement of public interests, it is conservative; while in the relationship between the state and its citizens, it highlights human rights, more precisely the application of majority and the minority rights, championing Christian and humanist principles. In simpler terms, it holds that brotherhood trumps compatriotism if a conflict arises between the two notions.

And history, which defines us small East-Central European nation states, continually creates human rights conflicts. Those conflicts can only be handled by decision makers and opinion shapers, valid solutions can be reached only those intellectuals, whose thought process is guided by the compass of Christian brotherhood and the search for truth mentioned above.

And that is not very easy — far from it. These people, guided by their conscience, are themselves performers in grim conflicts, since they continually draw the wrath of forces looking for simple answers, sweeping away authentic solutions.

Honored guests, ladies and gentlemen!

For Štefan Hríb, all these are not unknown. They make up his everyday struggles. He was forced to quit television under political pressure in public broadcasting, as well as trying to uncover the truth in the case of Hedvig Malina, so important to Hungarians. In 2007, as an example, Hríb interviewed the reporter Eugen Korda, fired for his investigative report in the case of Malina Hedvig. The broadcast did not run to the end of the segment as the producers cut the interview short.

The program Lámpa (Light), discussing public interest questions without political compromises, began to float between broadcasters. In 2007, the program Lámpa nélkül (Without light) had to say good-bye from Radio FM because, on remarking about the death of the Slovak poet Milan Rufus, Hríb commented thusly: “Rufus reminds me that, in the worst of times, he stood on the wrong side (…) Strange why an outstanding poet does dumb things…” Then he explained his statement and said that he was alluding to the Communist period. The Minister of Education of the Fico government greatly objected to his statement, charging Hríb that accused all Slovaks.

Honored guests, ladies and gentlemen!

The newspaper activities of the Slovak Štefan Hríb is especially important for us Hungarians. I could say that it is our good fortune that we have such friends. Permit me to introduce some examples of his thinking that have seen the light of day. Let us continue with the case of Hedvig Malina! In 2009, when the government ordered psychiatric assessment became public three years after the brutal assault, Hríb commented on it in .týždeň. His words mirror his thinking and his reporting attitude, which does not allow the facts to be swept under the carpet.

“Hedvig Malina was attacked three years ago. Her injuries were confirmed by her classmates, teachers, the ambulance attendant and doctors. And now, the dean of the medical faculty of the Komensky University, Peter Labas, makes an expert opinion to the end that there was no attack. Hedvig “bit herself all over” and invented the rest. The expert opinion is undersigned by the independent medical body of the Komensky University.

Well, this opinion is of help for the government but what is a normal person to think? Firstly, the opinion was made three years after the event occurred. And what exactly did the experts examine? They never saw Hedvig immediately after the attack! A number of doctors whose name appears at the bottom never signed the document; in fact, some officially denied having taken part in its preparation. And this opinion became public when the authorities were desperately searching for a way to avoid the situation without a serious fiasco. It made us of every means: the covert means of the power apparatus, the hate against Hungarians, the strange system of justice, the inexperienced experts, constantly avoiding the legal methods. The gist of the Peter Labas expert opinion: the power of the state has, for a long time, not tried to discover the truth but is trying to save itself.”

Honored guests, ladies and gentlemen!

Let us also look at another case! In his article covering the failed visit of President László Sólyom, Štefan Hríb titled his article “Hungarians, I beg your pardon.” Let me quote from the article, in which he exposes, point by point, the ineptitude of the Slovak government in causing a diplomatic scandal: “Government can be a sensible thing. For instance, it has the power to protect its citizens from threats. Except what this government did in Komárno (Komárom) was not for our protection but to our shame.” In the same article, he probably did not endear himself to Slovak politicians when he wrote that the historical roots of Hungarians and Slovaks were undeniably shared. That cannot be denied but should be used to create a joint future. Moreover… but let us quote himself: “Fico voluntarily renounced King Saint Stephen, in fact, made him an accomplice in the injustices committed against the Slovaks, and replaced him with Svatopluk. Very well, history can be twisted in this manner, one can relate to Hungary’s rich history this way, ergo to our history. If this is the position of the government – and it is, the coalition partner Slota opined of Stephen that he was a clown – then the right thing was for the organizers not only not invite the Slovak president but nobody at all from this historically illiterate, barbarian coalition.”

In 2010, this was the title of his article on the creation of the new Radicova government: “Hungarians in the government? Finally!” What follows is a quotation from which can be felt the conflicts that surround the idea of reconciliation: “The Hid is a member of the new coalition and that is wonderful news. Smer and SNS are not only parties that lie nicely so they can steal horribly; they are also parties that divide people in a primitive fashion – into good and bad Slovaks, as well as good Slovaks and bad Hungarians. This dangerous segregation, which excludes Hungarians from the government, degrading them into second class citizens, reminds how the majority treated the minority in the Tiso government. Hence, one of the best news of the parliamentary election was that Fascism lost in the heads of many Slovaks and Bugár’s party will be part of the new government. As an aside — those who think Slovakia is a nation state in which the detrimental Hungarians are superfluous, and if they don’t like it, they can move to the other side of the Danube, the greatest hindrance to the country — the Smer and the SNS wrecked the economy, stole everything possible in sight and implanted in the public opinion the hate and arrogance that was rooted in the Mečiar era. Hence, it is not that our Hungarians are harmful but that they are, they the “greatest” Slovaks.”

In 2012, in Brussels at a conference on the reconciliation between peoples, Štefan Hríb made suggestions regarding the greatest problems between Hungary and Slovakia that beg for practical implementation.

1) The role of the elite. If the French and the Germans were able to find an acceptable path of cooperation following WWII, then the Slovaks and Hungarians should be able to find their own. Perhaps we could start with modest things, such as a common soccer team, or the writing of a common history book, the creation – together – of films and music. Later, I see no obstacle why we could not have a shared airline, or even a common European policy. However, these should be suggested by the elites and not the politicians.

2) The role of education. Politicians, with the exception of a few real statesmen, reflect their constituents. Thus, the position of the electorate is of key importance. In this sense, education and knowledge of our common past and heritage is crucial. For this reason, more money should flow to education from the Cohesion Fund sources, rather than supporting the already strong corruption through all sorts of invented fake projects.

3) The most important, however, is that bravery is needed to recognize and acknowledge the rights of the other nation. To find that bravery that František Mikloško had — that is the task of my generation. For that reason, I say with Mikloško: The Beneš decrees were inhumane and unjust against the Hungarians of Slovakia. In fact, I will go further, Trianon was not only illogical but merciless against the Hungarians and I am sorry that it happened to them.

Honored guests, ladies and gentlemen!

From the quotations, it can be seen that Štefan Hríb senses precisely, is as perfectly clear, as everyone else who has joined László Surján’s initiative: here, in East-Central Europe, the countries that traditionally hate their neighbors have to rely on each other. We must accept each other’s traditions and we must be friends with each other. This is in our interest, since success can only come through unity.

Finally, please allow me another quote from him: “I dare say that we are not doomed to mutual hostility. We must base our relationship more on reciprocal understanding and the acceptance of the truth.”

Honored Štefan Hríb, I am very happy that you are here in our midst and I congratulate you on the award.

Gábor D. Horváth, journalist, assistant editor-in-chief of Magyar Nemzet