Echo TV pundit Ferenc Szaniszló announced on Wednesday that he planned to hand back the Tancsics Prize, a top state award for journalism, at the request of Human Resources Minister Zoltán Balog. In his regular appearances on the nationalistic television news channel, Szaniszló has become known for his antisemitic rhetoric, racist outbursts against Hungary’s Roma population and conspiracy theories.
Both the US and Israeli embassies had called on the government to withdraw the award, something Balog, who presented it at a ceremony on 15 March, said was not within his powers.
From the horse’s mouth
Szaniszló said his opponents had twisted his words and succeeded in misleading not just Balog but ambassadors, domestic and international media, and foreign governments. His message for Israeli ambassador Ilan Mor was: “You can celebrate the end of your war against me – Israel was victorious over Ferenc Szaniszló.” For US Ambassador Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis he spoke sarcastically of a victory of global importance for the world’s only superpower. “But it would be good if the American ambassador could stand up for Hungarians sometimes, not just gays and Gypsies.”
Unwelcome Hungarian won’t go to France
Budapest’s National Theatre director-to-be Attila Vidnyánszky has cancelled two performances at France’s National Theatre of Strasbourg, its director, Julie Brochen, has announced. Vidnyánszky, whose appointment last December to succeed current National Theatre director Róbert Alföldi on 30 June has been criticised as politically motivated, was due to perform with the Ukraine-based, Hungarian-language Beregszász Theatre in Strasbourg in April and to lead a masterclass for its drama school.
Brochen had originally kept the performances of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters and Ferenc Juhász’s The Boy Changed into a Stag in the schedule but cancelled the masterclass, citing in early March a reluctance to have Vidnyánszky’s participation taken as representing support for his new position. The appointment gave rise to much questioning over his links with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government, Brochen said, adding that the National Theatre of Strasbourg is signatory to a petition calling for the defence of Hungarian artists’ total freedom of expression and freedom from political influence and manipulation.
Both Vidnyánszky and the Beregszász Theatre cancelled their performances in the French theatre following its decision to cancel the masterclass. Brochen said the theatre is planning to hold a public meeting to discuss independence of artistic creation.
Vidnyánszky, previously director of Debrecen’s Csokonai Theatre, is expected to steer the National Theatre away from Alföldi’s liberal and controversial productions and towards more traditional and Hungarian-themed plays.