György Droppa: Academic freedom under drastic attack

Academic Freedom under drastic attack

No question, Orbán’s regime is like this. They want to reign in all areas of life. One could say, that this is the nature of exercising power, but what’s the point when rulers decisions are becoming obviously counterproductive. What is the point of an open attack against the knowledge-based society. Orban’s extreme right ruling is increasingly unpredictable. More and more people are asking, are the intellectuals the academicians the new enemy?

It all started with the Fidesz era, with retirements over age 65, payment withdrawals, and by the appointments of university chancellors. The task of these government officials was to supervise not only financially but the daily life of universities. Students and teachers were shouting together on the streets of Budapest; “Free Country, Free University.” Then, still many people believed that the democratic system still works on a certain level and there will be some type of reaction to the protests. People were hoping in some type of compromise solution. But Orbán’ system works differently. With retirements, with firing, with such intimidations, where students were afraid of not to be admitted, they were afraid that because of a Facebook comment, or because of a photograph taken at a protest will not be able to make their exam, etc.

The next big step of mental well poisoning was the comma running and expulsion of the Central European University. To make it clear, our government founded a university as the main enemy of Hungary. Then it was hard to imagine that this idiocy could be exceeded . But they were able to do that. The newest enemy is the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA). The goal is to significantly cut their modest budget, and to assign the independent scientific body to a minister. This would mean the disappearance of several prominent scientific institutes.

Today the demonstrators surrounded the reputable Budapest building, while the presidency of MTA discussed the topic. As a result, the scholarly body will boycott the plan. The long term result cannot be judged today. The question is; what comes next? Orbán`s autocratic system less and less tolerates the autonomous institutions and individuals.

Budapest, 12 February 2019.

György Droppa

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