Jelenlegi hely


“The democratic form of society demands of its members an active and intelligent participation in the affairs of the community, whether local or national. It assumes that they are sufficiently well informed about the issues of the day to be able to form the broad judgements required by an election, and to maintain between elections the vigilance necessary in those whose governors are their servants and not their masters. More and more it demands also an alert and informed participation not only in purely political processes but also in the efforts of the community to adjust its social and economic life to increasingly complex circumstances. Democratic society, therefore, needs a clear and truthful a(c)count of events, of their background and their causes; a means whereby individuals and groups can express a point of view or advocate a cause.”
I couldn’t agree more with this definition of the relationship between the public and the press. This was put down more than half a century ago (!) in the 1961-62 report of the Royal Commission on the Press (!), guess which country. I could not decide, where to put the exclamation mark, so I put it to both places.
I bumped into the book which quotes it totally accidentally as I replaced a broken reading lamp clipped to my bookshelf – this was the first time I opened this book of Martin D. Carter (An Introduction to Mass Communications, Macmillan and Co. Ltd, 1971) ever since I picked it up and took it for free at the bookstore near St.Pauls in London, U.K. in the autumn of 1977. Tourists and refugees from the countries ruled by Soviet-type regimes were entitled to take five books for free from that enterprise. I was neither a tourist, nor a refugee, just pretending to be a free wanderer, with partial success, I admit.
Four of those books I chose were on communications while the fifth it was The Holy Bible in Hungarian, probably to seek advice on my mother tongue, how to proceed my free wanderings after my passport has been confiscated by the consulate of the beloved country of my birth.
I longed for free press those days and for a free exchange of ideas, as they say, not scientifically but in everyday life, so I put those books aside, reading news and writing letters in the hundreds and most of all talking to my friends there, who, at the end, did not understand why I insisted on returning to cold war Hungary.
“You did not leave Hungary to forget it, but to see it better.” Said my best friend there one day, and he was right. I wanted to return and to be a part of it to make it free.
Some, maybe similar political notions must have been behind the free giveaway of those books from the bookstore near St.Pauls four decades ago. The Radio Free Europe, the Voice of America and the BBC World Service were still operating those days. They were all condemned by those rulers in the Eastern Block.
Upon my return I finished my university studies and became a journalist apprentice.
“The press is the means of the actual power.” – I read as the first line of my cold war Hungarian journalist-course textbook. So I quit.
Now it is 2017.  
The roads of Hungary are flanked with giant political messages of the government, the same is poured on the public through radio stations and television channels as well as via the internet. Identical government leaflets are put into the mailbox of every Hungarian household.
The Bureau of Democracy of the U.S. Department of State launched a project for „Supporting Objective Media in Hungary” on November 7 to “increase citizens’ access to objective information about domestic and global issues of public importance” as they state. One does not have to go to that bookstore near St.Pauls anymore, it is here on your screen:
What was that not being able to step twice into the same river, dear Heraclitus?