Tibor Purger was born in 1955 in Szabadka/Subotica in former Yugoslavia. He attended elementary school in Kanizsa and two years of high school in Zenta, before graduating from high school in San Diego, Calif., as an exchange student. He studied Applied Mathematics and Political Science at the University of Belgrade, and received his MS degree in Computer Science from The Johns Hopkins University and his MA in Political Science from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. At MIT’s Sloan School of Management, he completed an Executive Program in Technology Management.
After his college years, Tibor worked as a media critic for the Hungarian-language daily Magyar Szó (Hungarian Word, 1979–83) and as a film translator for Novi Sad Television. From 1983 to 1989, he was Editor-in-Chief of the prominent Új Symposion (New Symposium) magazine for art and social issues. He lost three jobs during the early years of the Milošević dictatorship in Serbia, so he started to write about foreign affairs for Dolgozók (Workers) weekly, and then went on to found the Családi Kör (Family Circle) magazine as its Editor-in-Chief and Publisher.
He moved to Washington, DC, at the outset of the Balkan Wars of the 1990s and worked from there as a foreign correspondent and international affairs analyst for Magyar Szó, over 25 years. He is the only reporter from either the Former Yugoslavia or Hungary to have held a permanent press pass to the White House for over a decade. Between October 1991 and March 1999, he filed more articles than there were issues of the daily. When the Serbian regime introduced state censorship due to the NATO air war against Milošević, Tibor stopped publishing there and established, instead, the first website for the newspaper as its independent online edition in the United States. After the war, he continued to write a Sunday column on international politics until October 20, 2016, when, due to the destruction of Magyar Szó’s public-service nature, he canceled the column and his financing of the paper’s World-Wide Web domain names.
In his American career, Tibor worked for Radio Free Europe (Hungarian Service, 1991–93; South Slavic Service, 1994–1999) and for a global satellite television channel, Duna Televízió, Budapest, from its founding in 1993 through its incorporation into the state-controlled Hungarian electronic media now dominated by the ruling party. He also worked at the Brookings Institution from 1994 through 2009 where he established and managed its award-winning website. Currently, he is Director of Information Technology at Rutgers University where he also teaches Political Science as an adjunct.
On October 23, 2016, Tibor launched the Szabad Magyar Szó news portal together with Péter Kókai, with the goal of reinstating the decency and openness of the Hungarian public sphere in Serbia’s Vojvodina province. In June 2017, he co-founded the Press Freedom Foundation for the same purpose, together with Dr. Stefan Messmann.
Tibor’s wife, Emese, is a journalist at the Voice of America in Washington. Their son, David, is a neurosurgeon and stem cell researcher at Stanford University’s Hospital in Palo Alto, California.