Yesterday an unusual article appeared in Népszabadság entitled “Helyreigazításnak nincs helye,” loosely translated as “Correction denied.” As it turned out, the newspaper published an article on December 10 in which two reporters, Imre Bednárik and Máté Nyusztay, wrote about the structural reorganization of the state-owned media.
Before I get to the real bones of contention, I should describe one change. MTI will reduce the number of employees to 100-150 people while only 49 people will be employed at each of the two television stations (MTV and Duna) and at Magyar Rádió (MR). One doesn’t have to know much about the structure of these public media providers to become suspicious: Why 49 people? Isn’t that an odd number? What is behind the move? Soon enough the answer came: according to Hungarian labor laws an organization with 50 or more employees must allow the workers to have something called “üzemi tanács,” a council with an elected head who represents the interests of the employees vis-à-vis the employer. With a staff of 49 people no representative council. Isn’t it clever! And what will happen to the rest of the people? They will be employed by the Műsorszolgáltatás Támogató és Vagyonkezelő Alap, a fund that will assist in programming and will also handle the assets of the public media providers.
Back to the main story. The new Media Council headed by Annamária Szalai last Friday demanded that a correction be published by the Népszabadság because according to the members of the council the article made several erroneous statements about Annamária Szalai. There were three complaints. The article stated that (1) Annamária Szalai, the chairman of the Council, will be the new “chief-chief” of more than a thousand employees; (2) the assets of the public media providers from here on “will be part of a Fund” supervised by Annamária Szalai; and (3) Annamária Szalai has complete control over the Fund.
The Media Council objected to the description of Szalai as “chief-chief” because “the media tsarina,” as some people have already taken to calling her, has no direct say in the affairs of the Fund. According to the letter the Media Council sent to Népszabadság, Szalai has only the right to name the Fund’s chairman and vice-chairman. Népszabadság, in its answer that was also published, inquired whether Viktor Orbán is not the “chief-chief” of Rózsa Hoffmann, undersecretary of education, even though between them there is the minister, Miklós Réthelyi.
As for the second complaint, the Media Council stated that the Fund is a legal entity that is supervised not by Annamária Szalai but by the Media Council. And who is the head of the Media Council? Annamária Szalai! Népszabadság draws again on a government example. It is not the state led by Viktor Orbán that expropriated the assets of the private pension funds but the state that is being run by the government whose prime minister is Viktor Orbán. Third, the Media Council strenuously objected to the statement that Szalai has control over the Fund. That is wrong: the Media Council has control over the Fund! Yes? And who is the head of the Media Council? None other than Annamária Szalai.
Therefore, Népszabadság refused the Media Council’s request for a printed correction. For good measure they wrote that if the chairman of the Media Council doesn’t like the answer she can go to court. At least this is what the current law stipulates. The new media law, if it passes–and it will, will not allow Népszabadság to appeal to the courts. If Annamária Szalai doesn’t like the wording of an article, the Media Council can immediately fine Népszabadság 25 million forints in addition to the 2 million forints the editor-in-chief would have to pay personally for allowing such terrible slander to appear in the paper.
It is quite clear that the article didn’t contain any untrue facts. The Media Council simply didn’t like the way they were presented. They came up with some legalistic objections which from here on they themselves could apply without the assistance of the legal profession. Népszabadság added that if the new media law passes they will go to the Constitutional Court, but until then with “the greatest respect” they refuse the request for a correction.
Off topic, but you might be interested in a picture of the Orbán family visiting Pope Benedict XVI. I must say that black is not the best color, especially on children: