Annamária Szalai: From porn magazine to the defence of family values

I must say that there are times when even I am surprised about what can happen in Hungary. Here, for example, is the case of Annamária Szalai, the new media tsar. It was just yesterday that Viktor Orbán named her chairman of the new National Media and Telecommunication Authority. She will have almost unlimited power in overseeing the Hungarian media and she will be unmovable for nine years. Regardless of what happens at the next two elections. And what can one read about her in 168 Óra? In 1991 she was the editor-in-chief of a porn magazine published in her hometown of Zalaegerszeg.

In most other countries Ms. Szalai would quickly enough have been out on her ears. But not in Hungary. As it turns out, in fact, this news has been circulating since at least 2003. But it seems that it made not the slightest difference in Szalai’s unbroken career in the world of media politics. She was a member of parliament (Fidesz) between 1998 and 2002. At the next elections she left parliamentary politics and was assigned by the party as its media watchdog at ORTT, a supervisory body overseeing the functioning of the Hungarian radio and television stations. Obviously, Viktor Orbán saw something in Szalai that suggested to him that she could serve the party better there than in parliament. If shrillness and aggressiveness matters in such a position, Ms. Szalai certainly was in the right place. I’m pretty sure that there must be some people in Hungary who like her, but if one just mentions the name Annamária Szalai in certain circles the reaction is violent. She tends to get under most people’s skin.

The first mention of Annamária Szalai’s connection to the porn magazine Miami Press I managed to find was in 2003. It seems that MSZP got hold of a copy of the magazine and without any comment passed it on to major newspapers. Miami Press was not exactly a success and after a few issues it died a quiet death. The issue that is circulating on the internet at the moment is from January 1991. Confronted with the news of her involvement with a porn magazine, Szalai said at the time that “although it wasn’t her magnum opus she was not ashamed of the publication.” The story came and went and in the long run it didn’t damage Szalai’s career in Fidesz or her role at ORTT.

Seven years went by and it became increasingly evident that Annamária Szalai would be a pivotal figure in the next few years and that the old porn story might make a difference. Especially since lately Szalai casts herself as the defender of Christian family values. She has stood up for the healthy development of the bodies and souls of Hungarian children who should be shielded from all sorts of programs that “can influence adversely the physical, intellectual or moral development especially by showing violence and the direct and realistic depiction of sex.” So, a blog writer who remembered the old 2003 story about Miami Press asked his readers to provide him with a copy of the magazine. He didn’t have to wait for long. A few days later he published three or four pages of the magazine, including Annamária Szalai’s name as editor-in-chief of the publication. Anyone who’s interested in some pictures from the Miami Press, which was advertised as a publication that talks “honestly and in a civilized way about eroticism,” can see them here.

That was sometime in February, and again it took quite a few months for the mainstream media to discover the story. It was only on August 9 that 168 Óra came out with a hard-hitting story: “National Media Authority. Annamária Szalai: from erotic magazine to morals.” Today, the same paper came out with another story: “Annamária Szalai the chief censor?” The article was accompanied by this picture:

 

 

168 Óra also provided some background on Szalai, and I was surprised to read that she started rather humbly. Born in 1961, she became an elementary school teacher in 1982 and for a couple of years taught in an elementary school in her hometown, Zalaegerszeg, population 60,000. However, soon she left her original profession, became a journalist at the local paper, worked for a film distributing company, and eventually reached the position of director of the local concert hall and gallery. In 1990 she received a university degree in “adult education” (népművelés) and in 1998 a diploma from a college specializing in finance. This hodgepodge of degrees seems to be enough in Hungary to be a lecturer at the János Kodolányi College, which has a reputation of being close to Fidesz. I really wonder what subject Szalai Annamária teaches at Kodolányi.

As the blog writer complained, “no one gives a damn about all this, especially not Fidesz.” And here is another case. The Wall Street Journal reported today that there is something very wrong with the nomination of Miklós Juhász as president of Hungary’s Competition Office. Mr. Juhász was fined in 1999 by the Hungarian financial market authority, PFÁSZ, for insider trading in shares of a company whose supervisory board he chaired. Surely, the Competition Ofice will be in the best of hands.

I’m sure that neither Annamária Szalai nor Miklós Juhász will have to worry about their new jobs. The only thing that matters is their loyalty to Viktor Orbán which, I am certain, is unshakable. Otherwise they wouldn’t have been appointed in the first place.

 

 

 

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whoever
Guest

Her appointment could be terrible, but most people may not notice any difference.
With the partial exception of some of the radio stations, Hungarian media is notably dull, conformist, unimaginative, tabloid, dumbed-down, repetitive, derivative and tasteless. This applies to state TV but also to commercial companies such as RTL Klub and TV2. Most people I know here only watch TV to see swimming or football. Only channels relying totally on foreign imports are worth the slightest interest.
In such a situation, perhaps a ‘pornographer-in-chief’ will at least get a few pulses racing. If the example of French TV is followed, with lots of topless girls, many people will be quite happy.

m
Guest

I really wonder what subject Szalai Annamária teaches at Kodolányi.
Pozíció:
* Kommunikáció- és Médiatudományi Tanszék: adjunktus

Eva S.,Balogh
Guest

m: “I really wonder what subject Szalai Annamária teaches at Kodolányi. Pozíció: * Kommunikáció- és Médiatudományi Tanszék: adjunktus”
Woderful! Among her many degrees she has none in communication.

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