14 Mar 2018

“Threat, blackmail and fear do exist today in Hungary"

Renowned Hungarian director Róbert Alföldi opened up about political pressure, intimidation and blackmail after he became persona non grata in the city of Zalaegerszeg.

Ivett Körösi
Ivett Körösi Nepszava, Hungary
Source: Nepszava
“Threat, blackmail and fear do exist today in Hungary" - NewsMavens

Why this story matters:

After two venues cancelled his appearances, controversial director Robert Alföldi said he received a letter saying that “there was no place in Zalaegerszeg whose owners would dare to host a meeting with him."

The letter went on to say "there is no one who would be willing to take the job of the discussion moderator because it would cost them their job... everyone in this city is afraid because they have been blackmailed.”

“Threat, blackmail and fear exist in Hungary today … Do we really want to live in a country like this?” Alföldi wrote on Facebook.

The director, who is 50, remembers how things worked in the Communist era. Artists were under constant suspicion. They were perceived as free thinkers who could disseminate their ideas through elusive works, and as a result were often subjected to harassment and intimidation.

For now, Alföldi appears determined to fight the return of these old tactics, but if the situation worsens, artists like him will soon have no other choice than to hide the true meaning of their art behind a smokescreen of metaphors.


Details from the story:

  • Róbert Alföldi, the former director of the National Theatre, is famous for his progressive plays and  his critical opinions on politics.
  • He was invited to appear on a talk show in Zalaegerszeg on March 22. But the organizers, who are affiliated with the local government, cancelled due to “technical problems.”
  • The show had been advertised and 80 percent of the tickets were sold hours after the show was announced.
  • Alföldi found out that a local politician from the ruling Fidesz party, with whom he had a misunderstanding in the past, pressured the organizers to cancel. 
  • A group of civilians in Zalaegerszeg still wanted to hear Alföldi and invited him to a similar event. He accepted their invitation and agreed not to discuss politics, only theatre and culture.
  • This event was called off as well, reportedly due to pressure from government officials.
  • Alföldi wrote a lengthy Facebook post after the second refusal, saying the people of Hungary needed to know what happened.
  • The director said he has never experienced anything like this but suspected it could happen.
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