An interesting discussion with the Director of Magyar Hang about his work, free speech, Hungary and the world.
Having been to Budapest twice, I can definitely say that this is a lovely city filled with beauty and history. A walk up and down Danube or perhaps a boat ride at sunset and then under the starlit skies and the lights mirrored on the water…yes, this is magic. But Budapest has got much more to offer travelers, as does Hungary as a whole. The historic sites, the delectable dishes, the hospitable locals, these are all elements adding to the charms of this place in Europe.
In search of the most intriguing personalities in Hungary, I came across Csaba Lukács. A reporter with so many years of experience, who has managed to be part of something bigger in the country. Have you ever heard of Magyar Nemzet? One of the nation’s most popular newspapers, closed in 2018 abruptly after some turbulent times and difficulties as to the amount of freedom provided in Hungary for journalists and those with a critical eye in general.
But right after the newspaper shut down, a new one appeared with the hard work and sweat of Csaba Lukács and some other equally inspired people. You are most welcome to check the video uploaded here, in order to witness some modern history from up close. See the staff informed of the changes from one moment to the next and watch how the local community supported the efforts of the journalists to keep on publishing the newspaper…under a new form!
I met Csaba Lukács right in the heart of Budapest, at the headquarters of Magyar Hang, which literally translates to the Hungarian Voice. A warm place, open to the public. As the Director explained to me: “Everything in the office is either donated or bought second-hand. From the computers to the desks and chairs, there are no actual resources to fund what one might call luxuries. The only treat is the coffee maker and it is an integral part of the newspaper!” I was offered coffee, of course!
Magyar Nemzet was a long-lived newspaper from 1938, which stopped operating after the Parliamentary Elections of 2018. Then, some of the staff decided that it was too unfair to just let go and follow different paths in life. Instead, they fought back and managed to create a new newspaper, funded by themselves and the public. Csaba Lukács remembers the difficulties and how could he not? He was criticized about his bold move and he continues getting the negative comments from those in favor of the Hungarian Government.
“It is very difficult to cope with the obstacles created on a daily basis. From the lack of press passes for the football matches of the National Team to the problems with the printing of Magyar Hang, we need to work hard and overcome the obstacles one by one.” And it is true, even the printing of the newspaper takes place to a different country, Slovakia. Printing across the border is just one example that most eloquently highlights how much some people oppose to the idea of free speech and healthy criticism. “If you do not have a press pass, how can you question the officials or attend important events?”
Magyar Hang is now supported by the public, mostly through donations and subscriptions. And given these circumstances, the numbers are impressive and place the newspaper among the most successful ones in Hungary. Imagine what would happen without the obstacles, right? But in such a place where free speech is somewhat demonized, from what it seems, is there any hope? Some would give up and deny the chance of a brighter future. Csaba Lukács will not join them in pessimism, though.
“Hungary is a great country, for sure. And the Government should not be demonized, as there have been some truly positive measures for the Hungarian people. It is just a matter of shedding light to the truth about Journalism in Hungary that will improve things and possibly allow everyone to express freely one day.”
Of course, we talked about a lot of other things. He told me about the incentives of the Government to couples that are determined to grow their families and how they get free loans and even a place to stay, a car to drive and so many things that make a difference for everyday life. It is a great and thoughtful way to cope with the dropping numbers in birth rates within the country. Let alone the fact that many young people decide to move to different countries to build a life there, indeed measures need to be taken without haste.
Budapest is a vibrant city, where tourism flourishes 365 days a year. It is an affordable destination, without a doubt. And with so much to see and do. Csaba Lukács even suggested that I visited the Széchenyi Thermal Baths – which I did and it was awesome! Upon completing our interview and having acquired so much great knowledge about the status in Hungary nowadays, he even gave me a memoir of Magyar Hang – a recyclable shopping bag and some of the most recent printed publications of the newspaper. Thank you once again!
PS: At their storefront in the city of Budapest, the reporters hang the newspaper upon being published. That way, those who cannot afford to buy it can read all about the news for free – and even get a cup of coffee with a wonderful chat.
It has been a real pleasure talking to an idealist, a person whose inspired vision keeps him going for a better world. Congratulations!