On 28 September 2017, Hungarian government spokesperson Zoltán Kovács verbally attacked Politico correspondent in Hungary Lili Bayer. Kovács first insinuated in a Twitter post that Bayer is on drugs. He further elaborated by claiming on the same day, in an interview with ATV private channel, that “calling someone an antisemite or a Nazi is a strong drug, and the lady really struggles to get off it […] She is a drug addict of calling people antisemites and Nazis.” He was replying to Bayer's tweet drawing a parallel between the 1920's first Hungarian anti-Jewish measures and the state-funded campaign against American billionaire of Hungarian origin George Soros.
He went on by saying that Lili Bayer is not a journalist but a political activist serving Soros' interests: “I already spoke about this with the editor-in-chief of Politico, which is one of the papers where the lady works, I already put this forward, if I remember correctly, sometime at the beginning of the year, and one thing is for sure, that political activists should not hide behind a journalist badge. And what’s also for sure is that Lili Bayer from now on, for us, I think, is not a journalist.” He added that he will no longer work with her.
This statement follows on from the publication of a list of eight journalists described as "propagandists" on the Hungarian internet portal 888.hu . Lili Bayer was one of the journalists publicly accused of serving the interests of George Soros. Government spokesperson Kovács also criticized Bayer by name in March and July blog posts, while pro-government media outlets attacked her by name in eleven articles since February 2017.
17 Dec 2018
On 12 December 2018, Hungarian government spokesperson Zoltán Kovács again denigrated Lili Bayer on Twitter, questioning whether Politico should be employing her as a journalist. In a tweet addressed to Politico Europe's political editor, Ryan Heath, Kovács wrote: "@politico is entitled to pay journalists, not political activists; regardless geographic location I do not consider @liliebayer a journalist. Please consider if she’s worth the money." Heath dismissed Kovács's tweet with one of his own: "It's not about who you consider a journalist. The EU institutions & POLITICO consider @liliebayer a journalist. Any non-Fidesz member who's met her agrees. And the point of a free press debate is that as a public figure, you occasionally accept questions from such people." Bayer was Politico's Hungary correspondent until April 2018, when she transferred to the outlet's Brussels office.
31 Jan 2019
Reply from the Hungarian authorities (information from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade)