Artists have published a petition against the destruction of Hungarian cultural life:
Dear Members of Parliament!
The government is about to systematically destroy cultural life in our country!
According to a new bill they plan:
– to bulldoze the National Cultural Fund
– to give the minister of human resources the right to appoint directors to city theatres in Budapest (or should theatres refuse his appointees they won’t get any subsidies)
– to discontinue operational funding for independent theatres, thereby sentencing them to certain death
After education and science, the government is ready to attack independent culture. The wave of centralisation has now reached the theatre and all other fields of culture. They plan to make absolute political loyalty a condition of any kind of subsidy.
Say no to bulldozing independent cultural life in Hungary!
Culture does not belong to politicians. It belongs to us, the people. And we are not ready to give it up: Culture belongs to us all! It is our national fund!
With the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen they want to render independent and free theatres impossible overnight, thereby ignoring seven million spectators a year.
We object to discontinuing the National Cultural Fund.
We object to discontinuing operational subsidies for independent theatres and independent dance companies.
We object to the minister appointing directors to municipal theatres.
We demand that members of parliament say no to this bill which was drafted without social or professional consensus. Say no to the firing squad aimed at Hungarian cultural life.
“For Free Theatre and Independent Culture” were demonstrated by thousands in downtown Budapest on Monday. The protest was directed against the right-wing national government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban and its violation of the autonomy of the theatres with a planned law change, stressed the organizers of the Independent Association of Performers.
Politicians should not interfere in the life of the theatres, the speakers emphasized, while the wave of centralization of the Orban government after education and science has now also reached culture. Tamas Jordan, theatre director from Szombathely, called on “every Hungarian with a clear conscience” to stand up for culture, because “cowardice is the greatest crime”.
No professional consultation
The actress Andrea Fullajtar of the Budapest theatre “Jozsef Katona” criticised that the right of state interference massively endangers the sovereign activity of the theatre and that no professional consultation of theatre representatives took place. The new opposition mayor of Budapest, Gergely Karacsony, reminded the audience: “The stage and the theatre do not belong to politics, but to the artists, to the audience.
“Viktor Orban’s regime wants to stifle all voices that dare to tell the truth,” criticized writer Gergely Peterfy in the run-up to the protest action. Orban is the “goulash Napoleon” who, after the defeat of his Fidesz party in the local elections, “burst his collar”. These elections had shown how vulnerable power was. Now Orban is on a vendetta against the most committed defenders of freedom, against artists, against all those who “work with words”.
50,000 supporters of a petition
Under pressure from the massive protests, the government has now removed individual planned measures from the leaked government draft, according to media reports, such as the veto right of the responsible minister on the appointment of theatre directors and the ban on support for independent theatres. Representatives of the theatres described this as a sign that the government would be hit by the protests. In addition, more than 50,000 supporters had signed a petition against the destruction of cultural life. However, the appointment of directors of municipal theatres was unclear.
Despite the government’s withdrawal, the organizers say the protests will continue until the entire bill is withdrawn. However, the bill is to be passed in parliament on Wednesday with a two-thirds majority of the governing party Fidesz. (APA, 10.12.2019)