Stage Critics Guild condemns vilification of government critics

September 20, 2017

Stage Critics Guild condemns vilification of government critics
Photo: Facebook/Színházi Kritikusok Céhe

The Stage Critics Guild (SzKC) of Hungary has published a statement condemning Hungarian political leaders for vilifying critics of the government “simply because [those individuals] exercises with their constitutional right to freedom of expression.” The SzKC’s statement comes on the heels of Fidesz vice-president Szilárd Németh’s announcement last week that the parliament’s National Security Committee had convened to discuss the national security threats posed by three individuals: stage director Árpád Schilling, and activists Márton Gulyás and Gábor Vágó.

After the national security meeting last week, Németh, who co-chairs the committee, publicly stated that the three aforementioned individuals were discussed during the closed door meeting. LMP co-chair and fellow committee member Bernadett Szél was quick to denounce Németh’s public disclosure, and criticized Németh for confusing a threat to Fidesz’s political power with a threat to national security.

The guild’s statement

According to the SzKC, it is wrong for any Hungarian political leader to label someone as “dangerous” simply because that person exercises their constitutional right to freedom of expression. It is wrong for anyone to accuse someone of “attacking Hungary” simply because that person is critical of the government, the guild writes.

The guild is shocked and disturbed to see that the government would accuse a stage director of being a public threat — “because this has not been seen in Hungary since the end of the dictatorship.”

“We sincerely hoped that Hungary’s democratic transition also happened so that an artist would never again be stripped of the freedom of speech, artistic freedom and the freedom of opinion,” the guild writes.

The guild also points that film and stage director Kirill Semyonovich Serebrennikov – who like Schilling is one of the most renowned stage directors of his country – was recently detained in Russia “in a manner reminiscent of the Soviet-era show trials.”

According to the guild, Serebrennikov’s arrest comes after years of the government treating the director as a public enemy.

“We find it terrifying that such similarities exist between these Hungarian and Russia cases, but as the citizens of a democratic state we believe that an artist in Hungary should never fear reprisals simply because of their political views,” the guild writes.