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  • Writer's picture Kester Eddy

The Way We Were - A Reporter's Take on the Incompetence of Hungarian Government PR in 1993

The saga of the Danube dam controversy between Hungary and [Czecho-] Slovakia from the early 1990s may baffle younger readers - but one thing for sure, since this came out, the Hungarian government's ability to make use of public relations has advanced by leaps and bounds, though whether that is to the advantage of the average Magyar is another matter.

Image: This is from Budapest Week, Hungary's first independent English-language paper, an edition in the first week of February, 1993. Tom Pullar-Strecker was a fellow freelance contributor.

I found this piece way back in February this year, and sent a copy to my old colleague (and, I hope, friend, even if we have shared few words since about 1995) Tom Pullar-Strecker. Tom had a good laugh, and replied he was "glad you can tell what I was on about!"

Naturally, he was also tickled that his piece of 28-year vintage was still being read on occasion.

Tom may have been a little flowery in parts in this piece, but for me it shines an amusing light into how the authorities at the time struggled to come to terms with how to deal with a free media. This was after 40 plus years of communism, piled upon, of course, a series of regimes that were hardly beacons of democracy before that, even if some media freedom was allowed, at least in the capital region, between the wars. (Sounds familiar?)

In spite of the poorly prepared press conference, Tom experienced some Magyar honesty and efficiency, as he noted that: "I seem to remember I left my glasses at the restaurant I mentioned in that piece and they very kindly posted them back on to me."

Tom, now living in New Zealand with his wife (and fellow journalist) Cheryl Norrie and family, is still making it work in journalism.

Good luck with it all, Tom - and thanks for the fun and memories.

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Graham Turner
Graham Turner
01 wrz 2021

In 1989 negotiations were taking place in Bath to finalise the twinning with Kaposvar. My late wife was acting as the interpreter: representing Kaposvar were the Mayor (an impressive guy) and two heads of council departments.

Kadar had just died, and the country was in turmoil, so to keep them up to date, every evening I would take a copy of the Telegraph - then still a respectable newspaper - to their hotel, and Agi would translate the Hungarian news for them - it was front page at the time.

On the third evening the Mayor looked at me with amazement and said 'how does this guy know this stuff ? I am the mayor of a large area of…

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