Issues

Facebook censors Szekler organization and ethnic Hungarian Franciscan Monk

Facebook recently blocked the promotional account of the Szekler National Council (known by its Hungarian acronym SZNT), a non-governmental organization campaigning for European Union legislation in support of regions with specific national, ethnic, cultural, religious or linguistic characteristics. Now, a couple of days ago, the social network exercised censorship on the page of the ethnic Transylvanian monk Csaba Böjte, who is also the founder of a national network of orphanage services. He announced on Monday that Facebook removed the video of a service he held on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Trianon; in the video, he also expressed his thoughts on the U.S. riots sparked by the death of George Floyd.

SZNT announced the removal of the organization’s civic advertisements on Tuesday, claiming that their latest press release somehow “must have hit a nerve” at Facebook. Ever since last year, the organization has been working on gathering signatures for the Citizens’ Initiative requesting a cohesion policy to ensure equality of Europe’s regions and the sustainability of regional European cultures. The proposal drew attention to the fact that the regions with specific characteristics include geographic areas with no administrative competencies and that the prevention of economic backsliding and sustained development should be achieved in a way that ensures their characteristics remain unchanged.

The fact that Facebook has blocked SZNT’s advertising means that their message, asking for the support of the Citizens’ Initiative, might not get out – in time – to hundreds of thousands of users. As SZNT pointed out in a Tuesday Facebook post, at its request, the European Commission has proposed a six-month extension to the signature collection deadline, which expired on May 7; taken into consideration was the fact that due to the coronavirus, SZNT and its partners could not collect paper-based signatures in the past couple of months.

The proposal of the European Commission still has to be approved by the European Parliament and the European Council, thus SZNT asked in its latest press releases “for a true extension of the deadline.”

“On May 7, our message – without being advertised – reached 623,000 people, as it was shared by 2,569 users. As Facebook has just blocked our promotional account, the question is: Will there be 2,500 users to help us this way again?” wrote the leaders of SZNT.

As to Csaba Böjte, he is a member of the Franciscan Order and the founder of the St. Francis Foundation. In 1992, he illegally moved to the building of the former Franciscan monastery in the city of Déva (Deva), which had been abandoned for decades. He continued to stay despite repeated eviction attempts by the Romanian authorities. His orphanage network currently cares for 2,500 orphaned children and children with parents living in deep poverty who cannot support their families.

After the removal of his service commemorating the Treaty of Trianon and his thoughts on the roots of the U.S. riots, Böjte wrote on his Facebook page: “It is dreadful, but it seems that freedom of speech is being curtailed in front of our eyes for political reasons…”

Böjte has received over a dozen awards for his humanitarian work, including the Middle Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit in 2010 and the Pro Cultura Hungarica award in 2019.

Title image: “Freedom of speech is being curtailed for political reasons”, states the founder of orphanage network, Csaba Böjte

Author: Éva Zay