Blinken OSA Denounces Restricting Access to the Archives of Hungarian Radio

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Hungarian Radio Monitoring at Blinken OSA.

According to press reports, research access to the Hungarian Radio’s archives is substantially impeded. Blinken OSA denounces any restriction on research freedom and dealing with the past, and offers its own collections related to Hungarian Radio to researchers on the subject.

December 1 is the anniversary of the start of regular radio broadcasting in Hungary, which could be a day of celebration. However, we were sad to read the Népszava report on the state of the Magyar Rádió (Hungarian state radio) archives. According to the article—relying on former staff members of the radio and researchers who requested anonymity—research access to the archives of Magyar Rádió (as well as those of the Hungarian state news agency and the Hungarian public television channels) has been facing increasing obstacles since 2010. No records registry is available, entire collection units have been closed from the public or moved to external storage without an inventory; no information is available on research facility opening hours, research is subject to a letter of assignment, individual assessment, and an hourly fee.

In 2021, the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives (Blinken OSA) endorsed the Guiding Principles for Safe Havens for Archives at Risk, publishing its unofficial Hungarian translation. Understanding history can be hampered not only by physical risks (whether natural disasters, negligence, or intentional harm), but also by restrictions on their accessibility. As an archives committed to free access, we denounce any restriction on research freedom and on dealing with the past.

Blinken OSA, one of the largest Cold War and human rights archives in the world, is an open-access facility committed to making research materials available to researchers and the wider public free of charge. As consequence of the logic of the Cold War, we preserve the verbatim transcripts of the 1951–1994 political and news broadcasts of Magyar Rádió. The records covering forty-three years of radio broadcasts were created at the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Research Institute in Munich. As radio served as the primary source of information for most of the second half of the 20th century, it was also an essential tool of state propaganda in the Eastern Bloc; this is why RFE/RL monitored the Hungarian Radio from the other side of the Iron Curtain, and for the same reason we consider the access to the Magyar Rádió archives instrumental today. The transcripts from 1951 to 1994, preserved in 497 archival boxes at Blinken OSA, are available in our Research Room, with a free registration. We are also striving to make the documents accessible online:

  • We have already digitized the transcripts from 1988 to 1990, which are available on our website.
  • The transcripts for the year 1989 are also integrated into our website Will There be a 1989?, a curated collection aggregating different primary sources on the year of the Hungarian regime change.
  • In a blog post, we’ve published the full transcripts of the broadcasts of October 23 and 24, 1956.