Meet the People Behind BIRN: Edit Inotai

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Edit Inotai is a Reporting Democracy Hungary correspondent. Based in Budapest, she reports about Hungary for the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network.

Photo: Personal archive

For almost 30 years, she’s been working as a foreign affairs journalist. Edit would probably be working as a researcher, doing foreign policy analysis, or a diplomat if she wasn’t working as a journalist. Find out what’s reporting about Hungarian politics like and what manual skills would Edit like to know.

Let’s meet her!

  1. Why did you become a journalist and decide to work for an investigative media like Balkan Insight?

I have been working as a foreign affairs journalist all my adult life which is almost 30 years now. I think this is the most fascinating profession because you can ask all the questions you ever wanted, and a highly versatile one as you can cover a variety of issues and end up meeting very different people. In 2020, I was approached by BIRN editor Timothy Large who was setting up a Central European (Reporting Democracy) branch of Balkan Insight. Working for Balkan Insight gives me  a unique  opportunity to do more in-depth analysis and research, rather than simple news reporting. I also enjoy working in a team with excellent colleagues with whom we can do some cross-border stories – perhaps even more in the future.

  1. What characterizes a responsible journalist today? How far on a global level has journalism gone from its principles?

Being a responsible journalist means doing your homework: researching, investigating, talking and listening to people from different social, cultural or political backgrounds. Get out of your bubble or echo chamber, maintain genuine curiosity, don’t fall for conspiracy theories, talk to people without prejudice and avoid labelling. I’m afraid that in today’s fast-paced media environment, when clickbait stories infect even serious media, many journalists simply don’t have the time and patience for this, and I see a worrying tendency for many journalists to have a political agenda. We certainly have our political beliefs, but don’t let them interfere with your profession.

  1. Do you have a story you worked on for Balkan Insight that you feel especially proud of?

I have done a lot of stories for Balkan Insight, perhaps the best ones are the more analytical pieces like the one about how the Orban- government tries to revive the heritage of Hungary’s autocrat Miklos Horthy, or a more recent one how Fidesz is trying to take over universities, which I believe was the first coverage in international media.

  1. What was the most challenging thing in your career so far?

The most challenging thing is working in Hungary, reporting about Hungarian politics (which I  always wanted to avoid) in an environment when you usually do not receive any answers from policy makers and are ignored by the government.

  1. What are your impressions of the recent Budapest forum, where you participated last month as a moderator?

Budapest Forum is great conference bringing together world-class thinkers and practitioners from all around  the world discussing mostly democracy-related questions. The best part of this year’s conference was probably the keynote address of Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, who talked about the erosion of the middle classes and how this leads to the surge of populism. She also warned that authoritarian political regimes always try to control what can be said but literature and other forms of art usually find a way to express themselves.

  1. What would you be working on instead of journalism and media?

I would probably be a researcher, doing foreign policy analysis or a diplomat. It would be great to have some manual skills like painting, interior deco or cooking but it seems – much to my family’s regret – I am not blessed with these talents.