Unforested canopy trail: the mayor of Nyírmártonfalva sued Atlatszo for corrections and an apology
After the publication of our story about his EU-funded canopy walkway built in a clear-cut forest, the mayor of Nyírmártonfalva, Mihály Filemon, has requested corrections through his legal representative. Since we quoted the data he objected to from public records, and the mayor did not respond to our requests for information before the publication of our story, we did not comply with his request. Filemon did not accept our decision and has taken the case to court, demanding corrections and apologies: the first hearing will take place next Friday at the Metropolitan Court of Justice.
The situation in Nyírmártonfalva has been tense since the canopy promenade without a forest became highly publicised following a story and video by Átlátszó. Mayor Mihály Filemon is also trying to put pressure on locals: according to an audio recording released by independent MEP Ákos Hadházy, he asked a public employee to remove a laughing emoji from a picture posted on Facebook, and later asked for her phone in his office. When he didn’t get it, he told the employee that she could leave and that he would send her “the papers”.
Filemon also threatened the press, telling ATV that he would sue anyone who reported on the unforested canopy promenade. In the case of Átlátszó, he has already fulfilled this threat.
In a request for correction sent after the publication of our story and video on the unforested canopy walkway, the mayor of Nyírmártonfalva claims that he has not yet received a single forint of the HUF 60 million EU grant, nor has he received nearly half a billion forints in afforestation grants in 2022. He also objects to the treetop walkway’s length – which is apparently 80 metres long instead of the reported 50.
Átlátszó insists that the data were quoted from public records, and when we reported that the mayor received EU funding for the treetop walkway, we reported the truth. Filemon applied for the EU funding, won it, and built his promenade-in-the-skies – whether payment arrives before or after is pretty much irrelevant.
The forest was cut to the ground during the construction of the EU-funded treetop walkway in Nyírmártonfalva – English
The mayor of Nyírmártonfalva won a gross 64 million HUF (approximately 166 thousand EUR) EU funding for the project aimed at building an 50-metre-long canopy walkway. Unfortunately, the forest was cut to the ground during the construction of the treetop walkway, which now stands in a desert.
After we did not comply with his request for corrections, the mayor took the case to court. He is suing both the publisher and the editorial staff of Átlátszó, demanding corrections and an apology.
In his court action, he maintains his previous position that, although he has been awarded the money, there can be no mention of EU support before it has been paid. He also claims in his application that our story “does not relate to his activities as mayor, but to his private life” and that his rights and reputation have therefore been infringed and that the story has been picked up by several press outlets. The first hearing of the case will take place next Friday at the Metropolitan Court of Justice.
As a reminder, in the story that is the subject of the lawsuit, we wrote about the felling of trees during the construction of the canopy promenade in Nyírmártonfalva. Not just some of them, but the entire forest around the walkway was cut down so that now the bizarre structure stands in the middle of a desert. The villages in the Great Hungarian Plain are buzzing with canopy promenade construction fever, even the region’s governing party Member of Parliament, László Tasó, had one built.
Transparency International Hungary has sent an official complaint and a request for an investigation to the Integrity Authority into the case of the “partly forestless canopy walks”. In their submission, they write that the cases that have come to light suggest that “systemic errors occur” in the selection of certain projects using EU funds. Ákos Hadházy and Anna Donáth have submitted a similar complaint to the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).
TI Hungary filed official complaint to the Integrity Authority over the “partly unforested canopy trails” financed by the EU – English
Transparency International Hungary has sent a formal notification to the Integrity Authority requesting an investigation into the “partly unforested canopy trails”. In their submission, referring to our story, they write that the cases that have come to light suggest that “systemic errors occur” in the selection of certain projects using EU funds.
After the publication of our story, the builder tried to cover up the canopy scandal with leafless trees and two buckets of lye. The canopy walkway has caught the attention of the whole country. Several memes were created about the walkway and our colleague Ferenc Sebő defended the installation and the misunderstood artist in a passionate artistic analysis, talking about Eastern European land art, postmodern heritage, and genius from an unexpected place.
Translated by Zita Szopkó. The original, Hungarian version of this story can be found here.