A Scholar Is Back Home and Defiant in Hungary

2013. december 9. 19:21

Paul Hockenos
The New York Times
In recent years, Ms. Heller has become a leading figure speaking out against the policies of Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his party, Fidesz.

„Mr. Orban has been criticized by the European Union and human rights groups for limiting freedoms of expression, among other controversial political moves. In higher education, critics say, Mr. Orban has gradually stripped away universities’ independence. His administration, for example, has required that the government itself appoint university rectors.

The atmosphere, many say, is one of fear and uncertainty. Pressure has been brought to bear on the country’s liberal-minded intellectuals, those defiant enough to protest — among them Agnes Heller. In the international news media as well as the handful of independent outlets still in business in Hungary, Ms. Heller decries Hungary’s authoritarian drift and underscores the responsibility of its scholars, as well as its ordinary citizens, to resist.

The government says these charges are nonsense. »Agnes Heller is doing what she always does: complaining loudly abroad whenever there’s an anti-communist government in power in Budapest«, said Andras Doncsev, deputy minister at the Ministry of Human Resources, which is responsible for education. Hungarian universities are world-renowned and enjoy full academic freedom, he added. (...)

Speaking with a reporter in her small apartment, high above the Danube River, Ms. Heller said the government “knew there was nothing” in the charges. “But this is their strategy,” she said. “They make these kinds of accusations, spread them all over their loyal media outlets, and thus blacken the names of their opponents. By targeting liberals, they blacken the name of liberalism itself. ‘Liberal’ here is a dirtier word than ‘Nazi’ or ‘communist.”

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