One of Hungary’s top theatre directors has accused government officials of running a citywide blackmail campaign in a bid to stop him appearing at events.
Róbert Alföldi, the outspoken former director of Hungary’s National Theatre, claimed that talk show organisers in the western city of Zalaegerszeg had been pressured to cancel their event by local officials over a long-running spat between the director and the city’s mayor. Theatre managers officially said that the show was called off due to technical problems.
Writing on Facebook, Alföldi said that local people had tried to organise an alternative event, but that he had been told him that the group was unable to rent a venue in the city.
“[There is] no place in Zalaegerszeg that will host the event — no hotel, no restaurant, not even a large room,” he wrote. “There is no one in Zalaegerszeg who will moderate the debate because people are afraid for their jobs. They have all been told to think hard about whether or not they want to keep on working.”
The director stressed that he had explicitly agreed not to discuss politics at the alternative event, which would instead touch on theatre and Hungarian culture.
“Today, there are threats and blackmail and fear in Hungary. It’s impossible to organise a civil event if it violates the government’s perceived interest,” he wrote. “Do we really want to live in such a country?”