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Thousands protest proposed culture law

Thousands of people protested the governmentʼs proposed culture law, which would increase the governmentʼs control regarding the appointment of theater directors and culture funding in general, according to multiple media reports.

Photo: Zoltán Máthé/MTI

The protest was organized in response to a proposal by the government, which would have largely centralized the financing of cultural institutions. Also, the original document said that the Minister of Human Resources would be responsible for the appointment of theater directors, taking the decision out of the hands of municipalities, Index.hu reports.

Due to the public backlash, the proposal was softened by Monday afternoon. Still, points such as the establishment of a National Cultural Council, responsible for defining a unified strategic direction for culture, stayed in. Additionally, the regulation of appointments was also watered down.

Reuters says that, the Minister of Human Resources and the relevant municipality would have to sign a deal about the joint operation of the given theater, and how to appoint its director. The agreement needs to guarantee the artistic freedom of the theater, the proposal says.

The parliament is due to vote on the bill on Wednesday.

According to index.hu, the protest itself began at 6 p.m. yesterday at Madách tér in Budapest, featuring speeches by theater directors and performers, as well as Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony. 

Eliza Sodró, actress at Miklós Radnóti Theater, read the public an open letter penned by theater performers under 30 years of age. "This generation was not receptive to hatred, and has come together as they do not see their future secured due to the law change."

Tamás Jordán, the director of Sándor Weöres Theater in Szombathely said, "Something is in the making against Hungarian culture that every Hungarian with a clear conscience must take action against."

Budapest Mayor Karácsony said, "Iʼm very unhappy that I have to be here, and once again talk about who is endangering our freedom. I am also very unhappy about having to take the stage, as I think that the stage, just like culture, belongs to artists and the viewers instead of politicians."