Hungarian left-wing journalist convicted of hanging Swedish immigration critics

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Published January 19, 2022 at 11:23 AM

Media. The left-liberal Hungarian journalist András Dezsö, 45, is now sentenced to probation for slander by the Swedish citizen Natalie Contessa af Sandeberg. According to the verdict, the liberal spread false information about af Sandeberg after she criticized immigration to Sweden. However, Dezsö is acquitted of violating the Hungarian Personal Data Act.

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According to the verdict, the 45-year-old left-wing activist committed the act after af Sandeberg had criticized Swedish immigration policy on Hungarian television. In a high-profile feature on the state-run Hungarian television channel M1, she said, among other things, that immigration had made her move from Sweden and that the security situation in the Nordic country had now seriously deteriorated.

In retaliation, András Dezsö sat down at Lexbase and downloaded various verdicts concerning Natalie Contessa af Sandeberg, which he then exaggerated the content of and published a critical article in which Contessa af Sandeberg was almost identified as a criminal. Something that led prosecutors to prosecute András Dezsö for slander and violation of the Hungarian Personal Data Act.

In Sweden, Reporters Without Borders reacted strongly to the fact that Hungary had the audacity to prosecute a journalist in the established media. Internationally, the same organization claimed at the end of 2019 that Dezsö had become the target of “an anti-Semitic campaign”.

– An EU member state can not allow an established journalist to be convicted for having done his job correctly, said Erik Halkjaer, chairman of Reporters Without Borders, in a statement in connection with the prosecution.

When the negotiations against András Dezsö began in the autumn of 2020, two issues were at the center. Secondly, if Dezsö committed a personal data breach when he disseminated compromising information about a private person even though he did not retrieve the information directly from an official source but from Lexbase, an Internet site, without verifying that it was correct. On the one hand, the indictment concerns the question of whether the liberal had the right to exaggerate this information and spread pure inaccuracies for the purpose of defamation.

The information was about Natalie Contessa af Sandeberg, a Swedish citizen of Hungarian descent who was interviewed by the TV channel M1 before the 2018 Hungarian election. In the interview, af Sandeberg claimed that she had moved to Hungary due to the deteriorating security situation in Sweden in the wake of mass immigration from the third world.

SVT reacted immediately by hanging Natalie Contessa af Sandeberg because she had been convicted of libel several years earlier, after, among other things, calling a former friend with mental problems a “mental case” and stating that the friend worked as a stripper. Despite the fact that the information was only disseminated in private contexts and it was unclear whether it was incorrect at all, a prosecutor pursued the case in the district court and Sandeberg was eventually sentenced to a fine. At the same time, she was convicted of another incident in which she incorrectly pretended to have worked as an animal welfare inspector when she tried to save a trapped dog from a hot car. According to the district court, the act constituted the crime pretending to be in a public position and a fine was also imposed for this incident.

– It was about trifles, af af Sandeberg stated when Aftonbladet continued to nag about the fines several years later.

When András Dezsö reported what had happened, however, he exaggerated the content of the verdicts and published several incorrect information. According to his article, Natalie Contessa af Sandeberg was convicted of “abuse of public trust”, a serious Hungarian crime that can be committed by people with public office. In addition, she was convicted twice for this crime, it was alleged in the article, when she was actually convicted of pretending to be in public and this only once.

András Dezsö risked up to three years in prison if he had been convicted for both crimes. However, the court dismisses the prosecution for violation of the Personal Data Act and only sentences Dezsö for libel. He is thus sentenced to a suspended sentence and is obliged to pay 500,000 forints (approx. SEK 15,000) of his defense costs. According to the ruling, the remaining part of the costs will remain with the state.

The prosecutor tells the Hungarian media that the acquittal in the personal data part will be appealed.