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The “Iron Lady” of the Hungarian media dies at 51

May 1st, 2013

A former advisor to the public media conglomerate, MTVA, thinks the much reviled media law has brought essential improvements to the regulatory framework, and regulators were unprepared for the vehement of the attacks against it – despite the warning signs.

Annamária Szalai, former head of the Media Authority, which was created by the new media regulation, died aged 51 two weeks ago. Her funeral was attended by President Áder and PM Orbán.

In his obituary in Heti Válasz, László Szabó, formerly the communication chief of MTVA, remembers Szalai as a hard-working and dedicated woman, an “Iron Lady of the Hungarian media.” He describes the new media regulation, which came into force in 2011 to a large extent along the lines defined by Szalai herself, as a much needed, important step forward, especially in protecting both children and journalists, providing for more market competition and facing the challenge of the new technological environment. The “all-out domestic and international attack against it,” he says, caught the government side by surprise, and the political damage caused by the ’two and a half year long war’ was heavy. Nevertheless, Szabó concludes, the fact that the minor details of the text of the regulation singled out by European institutions were readily modified, shows that the war was not about the text at all.