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.