Publicity stories in the Kádár period
A documentary film (in Hungarian)


‘It would be very superficial and even a little irresponsible to claim there’s no freedom of the press, though Comrade Naményi may ring up sometimes to say don’t write about that or Comrade Darvasi may phone the editors to say this or that’s taboo. I claim still that Hungary has freedom of the press and freedom for writers. Just look at what views are publicized here… I say everything’s allowed in Hungary except one thing: writing that runs counter to our political system.’

The quotation comes from a speech by István Szirmai, head of agitation and propaganda at the communist party, to the 1965 AGM of the Journalists’ Association. It might sum up the film and it’s certainly typifies of the ambiguous way the press in the Kádár period was managed. There was a regime trying to control all the publicity strings and there was a regime wanting to bask in a reputation for being understanding, democratic and above all loved.

The film seeks journalists, editors and assistant editors who learnt during the long Kádár period how to walk the communications tightrope, knowing just what readers and authorities expected of their paper. It contains a string of publicity stories, told by Irén Németi, once editor-in-chief of the women’s weekly Nők Lapja, Vilmos Faragó, formerly deputy editor of the literary weekly Élet és Irodalom, Gábor Paizs, who edited the Budapest evening paper Esti Hírlap, and Ernő Lakatos, once vice-president of the Information Office. It’s spiced with archive quotations from functionaries and press controllers of the Kádár period.

The film splices in three case studies in publicity policy, told through documents and newspapers of the time. These are a fatal accident suffered by Deputy Minister Péter Vályi at the Diósgyőr Ironworks, the burial of the exiled Mátyás Rákosi in Budapest, and the Kiev crash of a Hungarian airliner. Reported correctly and factually, they would never have given rise to the astonishing rumours that came to surround them.

Filmscript and direction: Judit M. Topits
Camera: Gábor Ágoston and Gábor Halász
Historical adviser: János M. Rainer
Editor: Péter Sass
Producer: Réka Sárközy
Featuring: Imre Del Medico, Vilmos Faragó, Alíz Halda, Ernő Lakatos, Irén Németi and Gábor Paizs
The film received funding from the National Cultural Base Programme and the Hungarian Historical Film Foundation
Maker: 1956-os Kht.

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Copyright © 2000 National Széchényi Library 1956 Institute and Oral History Archive
Last updated:  Monday, 4-June-2007

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