Filtering the news in Hungary?

Well, it looks as if there are attempts to conceal some of the bad news–bad that is from the point of view of the government–from the Hungarian public. This is especially true about the reporting of news of foreign media organs by Magyar Távirati Iroda (MTI), the official Hungarian news agency. There are more and more examples of "wrong translations" or simply omissions of adjectives or whole sentences from foreign media reporting.

Hungarian journalists and political activists who can handle foreign languages well immediately moved into action. Attila Ara-Kovács, a well-known figure of the original democratic opposition, is busily collecting German-, French- and English-language items about Hungary and sending them around to journalists and others who have anything to do with the media. However, it can easily happen that the journalist receiving the articles may not be able to read them. It is here that Galamus Csoport (www.galamus.hu) comes into the picture. Members of the Group who know a foreign language well volunteer their services so that the Hungarian public can be better informed. On the site one can read accurate translations of articles that appeared abroad about Hungary.

But of course this is just a drop in the bucket because MTI reaches all those who subscribe to its services. That means practically all media outlets. And soon enough these services will be entirely free. By making the service free the government wants to make sure that everybody will use MTI instead of other sources. And, by the way, another source might be on the horizon. Róbert Braun, a communications expert and former advisor to Ferenc Gyurcsány, bought a little-known agency called Független Hírügynökség. We will see whether this news agency can compete with the well-established MTI.

What is MTI doing? I myself discovered two instances in which MTI most likely purposely altered the news. One was in late December when MTI gave a summary of an article that appeared in the Financial Times on December 24, 2010. In it the journalist reported that Neelie Kroes "has asked the Hungarian government to defend its controversial press law, ratcheting up a potentially fraught EU investigation into the measure." Moreover, "according to people who have seen the letter, Ms Kroes details EU protections regarding press freedoms, adding she has heard concerns that the 'act risks jeopardising these rights.' It also says Ms Kroes has received complaints that the language governing the new media council 'does not seem to guarantee its independence.'" In addition, the article mentions that "Ms Kroes’ action could have more serious repercussions. The EU has already opened a so-called 'infringement action' against Hungary for its failure to live up to the EU’s media regulations, and Ms Kroes could take the case to the European Court of Justice to force Budapest’s hand."

Most of this important information was left out of the MTI "translation." MTI didn't even find it necessary to mention which "British" paper published the article. The summary simply states that Neelie Kroes wrote a letter to Tibor Navracsics in which she asked him to send the complete text of the media law in order for her to decide whether the Hungarian law is in accord with Union laws. The MTI version mentions that some people who saw the letter claim that Kroes brought up the question of the independence of the Media Authorities. Period.

Another mistranslation was MTI's reporting of the description of Viktor Orbán by the U.S. Embassy in Budapest. According to the document, obtained through Wikileaks by Der Spiegel, the following description went to Washington:  "With the recent release of a lengthy report on the fall demonstrations which highlights FIDESZ's links to the violent protestors (ref b), their latest act of 'civil disobedience' will likely underscore questions regarding their commitment to the rule of law. Much as we saw Viktor Orban at his best in a recent meeting with Ambassadors (ref a), this escapade shows that he is still equally liable to play with fire." This time MTI summarized the Spiegel article but from the above description found only one short sentence worthy of quotation: "In the secret American diplomatic documents that came to light not long ago, Viktor Orbán is characterized as someone who likes to play with fire."

Zsófia Mihancsik found several other "mistranslations" by MTI in the French-language reports. It turned out that the Catholic daily La Croix spent three whole pages on Hungary which were summarized in one report by MTI. In one of the articles Mihancsik found an interesting sentence: «Toute cette hystérie à propos de la loi sur les médias est excessive et incompréhensible», répond Peter Csermely, 44 ans, rédacteur en chef adjoint de Magyar Nemzet, le quotidien conservateur concurrent, pourfendeur virulent des «juif » et des «communistes». Well, these adjectives were left out of the Hungarian "translation." How can one call Magyar Nemzet a virulently antisemitic and anticommunist paper? (Mihancsik, a professional translator of French books, translated it as "zsidó és kommunistafaló" konzervatív napilap.)

Thus one has plenty to worry about. One will have to be a great deal more careful when reading MTI summaries of foreign news.

 

 

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Paul
Guest

Sounds like MTI should be reported to the Media Council.

Vándorló
Guest

I just love their slogan “MTI: tény és való” (lit. ‘fact and true’, though ‘factual and truthful – tényleges és valóságos – for the sake of sounding half decent in English).

Mutt Damon
Guest

Well, good luck to Róbert Braun. We’ll see if the Hungarian media outlets prefer the free lies or willing to pay for the truth.

Vidra
Guest

More to pile the pressure on Orbán and MTI – an article under the headline “Hungary sent an ultimatum over media law” appeared in this morning’s Financial Times. It was reported on RádióCafé but (surprise!) didn’t get a mention on RTL-Klub’s bulletin.

Minusio
Guest

@Vidra: “More to pile the pressure on Orbán and MTI -” I am sure Orbán is already getting the jitters… 🙂
This reminds me of an old joke you probably all know.
An elephant was walking in a park. With each step he took, he squished many little ants.
Upset, the ants began to crawl up on the elephant — first his legs and then up all over his body. When the elephant started feeling all the little ants on him, he shook hard, making all the little ants, except for one, fall to the ground.
As the only ant on the elephant hung on close to the elephant’s neck, the ones on the ground began to yell, “strangle him!!! Strangle him!!!”

Minusio
Guest

@Vidra: I just had a look, the Financial Times referred to the letter by Neelie Kroes which I wouldn’t yet qualify as an ultimatum. However calling the EU’s deep concerns on matters of democratic principles just “technical questions”, as MTI reported Zoltan Kovacs as saying, seems to look a little frivolous. According to him, the Commission’s letter that arrived in Budapest on Friday, was “in no way an ultimatum” but a written version of “already known” concerns.
This one is coming home to roost.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Minusio: “However calling the EU’s deep concerns on matters of democratic principles just “technical questions”, as MTI reported Zoltan Kovacs as saying, seems to look a little frivolous”
If they try to answer the letter in that vein they will be sorry. By the way, this Zoltán Kovács is a very unpleasant character. I think he was a bad choice for trying to sell the government’s agenda.

trying to maintain some decency
Guest
trying to maintain some decency

In case, some spirit left in you for laughing:
http://egyenlito.blog.hu/2011/01/19/egy_sertetlen_diszno_nyilt_levele
“én vagyok az ólban az a sertés, akit ma nem ért sértés.”

Minusio
Guest

Eva: “If they try to answer the letter in that vein they will be sorry.” I agree, not least because Neelie Kroes is someone who doesn’t suffer fools lightly. In her long career she has shown that she can fight for principles. In addition, she is vice-president of the EU Commission. Not a lightweight to pick as an opponent. In her former position she took on Microsoft. The case is still not decided, although Microsoft disposes of almost unlimtied means (quite in contrast to the Hungarian government), and Microsoft had to change several of the incriminated business practices.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

MTI should be really reported.
The Vienna daily “Die Presse” has published today my article about Hungary.
They titled: “Der geehrte Fäkal-Antisemit”
“The honored fecal-anti-Semite” in English
However MTI translated it, as if I would have addressed Zsolt Bayer, which is not what I did or what the title says. The title refers to the fact mentioned in my article, that Bayer was honored by the county Nógrád receiving the the Madách-prize.

Rigó Jancsi
Guest

This mistranslation of “Die Presse” doesn’t sound like it’s been done on purpose, what would be the use of changing “The honored fecal-anti-Semite” into “Dear fecal-anti-Semite”? It rather seems that the translators at MTI don’t even speak foreign languages well enough to make good translations. Now what is worse? Mistranslation by purpose or mistranslation by incompetence?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Rigo Jancsi: “It rather seems that the translators at MTI don’t even speak foreign languages well enough to make good translations. Now what is worse? Mistranslation by purpose or mistranslation by incompetence?”
Here is a funny passage from Zsófia Mihancsik:
“Más kérdés, hogy ha Daniel Cohn-Bendit megkapja a szép számú tiltakozó levelet (már 45-en kedvelik az oldalt ), nemigen fogja érteni, miért küldenek neki olyan leveleket, amelyekben Orbánt és a magyar nemzetet szólítják fel bocsánatkérésre („We demand a public appology from Orbán Viktor, as well as from the Hungarian Nation”), de majdcsak elmagyarázza neki valaki, hogy az idegen nyelvekkel hadilábon áll ez az amúgy magas kulturáltságú ország, ugyanis nincs szüksége rájuk, jól elvan a sajátjával.”
In brief, there is a request on Facebook to bombard Cohn-Bendit with e-mails in which they demand an apology from Orbán and the Hungarian nation instead of an apology from Cohn-Bendit to Orbán and the Hungarian nation. Tells a lot about the knowledge of foreign languages in certain Hungarian circles.

John G
Guest

I think they use http://www.translate.google.com and the dictionary edited during the Stalinist era. If you want to have a laugh try it yourself.
@ESB”:”Zoltán Kovács is a very unpleasant character. I think he was a bad choice for trying to sell the government’s agenda.” Yes, from one point of view, but from a different perspective he may actually be the best. If you want to pick a fight send a pugilist. Interesting to see if he will be the one continuing in this capacity, or they switch to someone else. At the moment the game is not to placate the EU but to save face at home. The EU will come later when they firmly established their innocent victim position at home.

John G
Guest

@trying to maintain some decency: It is a pity that such websites as egyenlito, vastagbor, piroslap, and orulunkvincent are not accessible to other languages. But then their content is entirely aimed at Hungarians, written in the current vernacular of the young. Funny, acerbic and quite insightful, all of them. Their humor and sarcasm is very Hungarian which would be totally lost in translation.

Mutt Damon
Guest

During my college years in Budapest somebody translated semiconductor into “zsido kalauz”.

Odin's Lost Eye
Guest

John G – They are readable if you have Google Toolbar. It can translate Hungarian. Sometimes the translation is a bit quaint

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

I highly recommend using Google Chrome. Indeed the translations are occasionally odd but I even tried from Portuguese to English and with a little imagination one got a fairly decent translation. I assume that the translation from and to Hungarian is less satisfactory.

GDF
Guest

The first paragraph of this blog entry is translated by Google as follows: ‘Nos, úgy néz ki, ha van megpróbálja elrejteni néhány rossz hír – rossz ez a szempontból a kormány – a magyar közönség. Ez különösen igaz a hír bejelentésének a külföldi médiumok a Magyar Távirati Iroda (MTI), a hivatalos magyar hírügynökség. Egyre több és több példa a “rossz fordításokat” vagy egyszerűen mulasztásai melléknevek vagy teljes mondatok külföldi média beszámolókat.’
Well, it is probably not at the level of IBM’s Dr. Watson computer that is going to play Jeopardy with two of the best players ever..

תאורה לחדרי ילדים
Guest

I like that virtually all media and soon these services completely free. By making the free service that the government wants to ensure that everyone ITN use in place of other sources.

בניית בריכות שחייה
Guest

This means that virtually all forms of media. And soon enough, these services are completely free.

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