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Hungarian report Hungarian report
by Euro Reporter
2013-08-10 12:41:31
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Hungary's culture is being crushed or co-opted

The UK has culture skirmishes; Hungary has culture wars. In a country where party politics has always sought to control the cultural field, the aim of such war is to wipe out, or at least quarantine, the opposition, its ideology, its language, its notions of independence, and – in the case of the current administration – to impose an all-consuming patriotic line whereby only one version of Hungary is allowed to exist. There is currently the case with the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The original academy was founded in 1825, chiefly composed of scientists but including some literary figures. In 1949 it was taken over by the Communist party, so after 1989, there was reason to change it again. The academy declared itself an autonomous institution and in 1992 the Széchenyi Academy of Letters and Arts, or Szima was founded as one of its branches. As soon as news of its foundation got around, it was attacked by the right wing and a rival organisation, the Hungarian Academy of the Arts, or MMA was set up, forestalling it by a few months, with the architect Imre Makovecz at the head. Szima invited members, MMA took them on application. Szima had, and continues to have, the finest writers of the period, including Hungary's four leading novelists, Péter Esterházy, Peter Nádas, Imre Kertész, and László Krasznahorkai, as well as its greatest film directors, Zoltán Fábri, Miklós Jancsó, Károly Makk, Márta Mészáros and István Szabó, not to mention composer György Kurtág and pianist Zoltán Kocsis. MMA has a good many artists who applied. But MMA got the money.

From the "patriotic" point of view, any art that questions the administration's values or simply negates them is to be distrusted. But since Hungary is still a democratic country the government can't be seen to censor disagreeable material directly. It can't arrest or ban people but it can jettison them and prevent them operating by strangling them financially or by taking over the organisation from the inside. The list of such strangulations and takeovers is already long. In theatre the ousting of artistic directors and the installation of far-right figures; in the visual arts the encouragement of rightwing art through national competitions and the amalgamation of independent galleries to single institutions more easily controlled by government; in media the attempts to close down independent radio stations. The list in literature is far too long already. There have been attempts to smear György Konrád and to deprive Nobel prize-winner Imre Kertész of his Hungarian identity (now referred to only as being "of Hungarian extraction"). There has been the setting up of an expensive new national library to promote Hungarian patriotic values, and the introduction of fascist writers of the 30s and 40s to the school syllabus. Philosophers have been smeared. In March the prestigious Táncsics awards were given to three members of the far right – one of those awarded gave back the prize, under official pressure, the other two kept them. Far-right figures get research centres of their own, while the philosopher György Lukács's research centre is broken up into general libraries.

Now MMA has been declared the only representative of Hungarian arts. MMA has a clear patriotic agenda. Szima is a non-political organisation and includes supporters of the government. Interestingly enough, the founder and leaders of MMA have been among those to traduce Konrád. A couple of months ago the architects association suggested a series of events to commemorate 20 years of Szima. Not only did it receive no funding, but the association is threatened with closure. But maybe that is not surprising. István Klinghammer, the new secretary for higher education, recently declared: "I think the humanities are important but they don't create values." Not the right values perhaps. Some will say it is just privileged artists moaning about loss of influence. But this is cumulative, part of a process to deprive the opposition of voice and therefore language. Hungary has produced great artists, musicians, architects, film directors and writers. Some of them are still alive. The government wishes to cut them out of the heart of culture. The truth is that the so-called "patriots" backed by the Fidesz conservative party are not the image of the nation: they want the nation to be the image of them.

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Murder convictions are 'wake-up call' over hate crimes against Roma

The Hungarian authorities must do more to protect minority groups from hate crimes, Amnesty International urged today after four people were found guilty over the racially motivated murders of six Roma in 2008 and 2009. A Budapest court today handed life sentences to three of the convicted quartet, all known for supporting far-right ideology, over a spate of attacks between March 2008 and August 2009 in the northeast of the country. The fourth man received 13 years in prison for collusion. However, research by Amnesty International suggests hate crimes against Roma remain a serious concern in Hungary, while police lack the guidelines to thoroughly and effectively investigate them.  "Five years after these cold-blooded killings, Roma in Hungary still do not receive adequate protection from hate crimes," said Jezerca Tigani, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia Programme. "This horrific case should have been a wake-up call about the continuous, often violent discrimination faced by the Roma community, but the perpetrators of such acts are still not being brought to justice." The court found Zsolt Peto and brothers Arpad and Istvan Kiss guilty of carrying out nine attacks using firearms and Molotov cocktails targeting Romani houses in nine separate villages.
 
The fourth member of the group - Istvan Csontos, who acted as a driver - was also jailed. Six people were killed and five injured in their year-long spree of violence, including a father and his four-year-old son who were shot dead as they tried to flee their home as it burned down. Another woman was shot dead in her sleep. Amnesty International's research shows there is still a lack of support for victims of hate crimes, such as counselling and legal assistance.  Hungary's Criminal Code does not explicitly include hate crimes in murder cases, with judges instead granted discretion when ruling on offences committed against minority groups such as Roma.  Statistical data showing the scale of these crimes is not collected.  "Today's verdict is a positive step, but Hungary has yet to learn the lessons from these killings. The authorities are still not doing enough to prevent and respond to violence against Roma," said Jezerca Tigani.


"The government needs to introduce new measures to tackle hate crimes, such as procedures that clearly outline how such crimes should be investigated, police officers trained to recognize and investigate hate crimes and disaggregated data on hate crimes collected and made public."  Roma in Hungary are demonized by politicians and media, while communities continue to be harassed and attacked by far-right vigilante groups who march through their villages. Far-right party Jobbik and several vigilante groups held a march in the village of Devecser in August 2012.  They reportedly threw pieces of concrete and other missiles at Roma homes, with the police officers present failing to intervene.

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Hungary’s National Bank repays IMF loan

Hungary’s central bank has repaid an IMF loan of around 721 million Euros, thereby returning the loan in full, the bank said in a statement on Wednesday.

The bank’s governor, Gyorgy Matolcsy, had earlier told the International Monetary Fund that once it makes the early repayment of the 2008 loan, the fund should close its Budapest office.

The central bank’s foreign currency reserves of 33.734 billion Euros at the end of July will be reduced after the payment.

 


       
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