Tomorrow starts yesterday

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Nov 30, 2013 (3 years and 11 months ago)

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Tomorrow starts yesterday

Science journalism in totalitarian countries:
the impacts to a current time


8. World Conference of Science Journalists

24
-
28. 2013 Helsinki


Istvan Palugyai (Népszabadság, Hungary)

Yesterday


Hungary
-

science journalism was affected in numerous cases by
the political pressure


Communism in the 1950s years
:

Some disciplines were stigmatised

as „western science”


they were accordingly
reported in the press or in the radio

(cybernetics, genetics, psychoanalysis etc.)


Cybernetics:
(early name of informatics)



considered as „bourgeois
pseudoscience”

Genetics:
In the Soviet Union since the thirthies the power denied the genes


Ideology behind: there are no innate abilities


the environmental impacts and learning is the




decisive factor (Trofim Lysenko)


„we can achieve eweryhing with diligence”



Yesterday


In the strong Stalinist dictatorship forced production of non
-
viable
plants in Hungary (citrus, cotton etc.)



The party controlled media had to report supportive with
enthusiasm


even it was no success




True story: in newsreel had to make film about the crop in the
cotton field. The skilled cameraman (he worked later in the first
Hungarian TV science magazine)

bought cotton wool in a nearby
pharmacy and put plucked brushes on the branches of the
languishing cotton plants to illustrate the successful cotton
harvest


Today

History repeats itself

1990


Hungary became free democracy

Major cornerstone of the political transition in Hungary:
Bős
-
Nagymaros water dam on the Danube

(„Trojan horse” of the political opposition: they were able during the
last years of the communist regime to protest again the so called
„Dunasaurus” project


under the pretext of environmental
protection

After the transition


consensus between the poltical
parties to oppose the dam


The public opinion was certainly against the water dam
and water energy as well

(especially after the diversion of the
border river by the Slovakian government and built up the dam and the
power station at the Slovakian side.)


Hydrology suffered


Voice of hydrology was repressed, although the
continuation of staggering of the river is a necessity




One main reason of the fall of the socialist Horn
-
government in 1998 was that they tried to began the
negotiation with the Slovakians about to build a
further dam downstream in Hungary



The representation of hydrology became smaller
and smaller in the Hungarian Government and all
the hydrological developments overshadowed



Hydrology in the media


Any science journalist acitivity about the
objective picture of the hydrological facts
about the Dabube was rare (Taboo topic)



After more than 20 years and after higher
and higher floods some cautious articles and
reports recently published, public debates
started



The political arena feels the neccesity of the
discussion of the issue but nobody wants to
take the political risk



GMO and constitution


90s: the media reported quite broadly and objective
about the genetic modification.
(Science journalists published
several articles, TV and Radio reports about GMO)




After 2000: the politics tend to be more anti GM and
so the media followed
the anti
-
GM articles became much
more dominant than the pro
-
GM or neutral voices. The Orbán
-
government introduced the complete GM
-
BAN (cultivation and
import) Later they incorporated the BAN in the new constitution!



Consequence: the GM
-
scientists almost don

t get
research funds and grants and especially the
tabloids and commercial TV
-
s report only anti GM
stories


Nuclear energy

The political influence in the Hungarian media is too strong

Politics
---
> public
---

>media issues (distortion)

According the nuclear issues it can happens in more traditional
democracies as well (Austrian example at IAEA! )

Hungary
: Nuclear energy share 40% from the country’s energy
supply

The importance of the nuclear power station Paks was never
questioned by any big political party

First debates began recently according the construction plan of a
new reactor (strong financial interests)

Reducing the number of objective (science based) articles
according the nuclear energy (but still exist)


Summary


Science journalism and science related topics are
not independent from the politics especially in issues
affects by social conflicts


The rate of the democracy influences the distortion
of the news (and their balance)


Hungary: in the totalitarian system the distortion was
everyday practice


In the current time there are dangers again and
science journalism has to avoid and resist against
the bad influences