Fired For Defending Free Speech

A few days ago a Facebook post went viral in which the son of Hungary’s first democratically elected prime minister and director of a research institute, Péter Antall, threatened his employees with the loss of their jobs if they dare as much as to share any anti-Olympics content on social media.

Esteemed Colleagues!

I call your attention to the fact that our financing comes from ME! (Prime Minster’s Office – ed.) I don’t want to see posts, likes, from our colleagues attacking the  olympics. I think it’s important! Everyone can have an opinion, but I’m asking you not to make it public, because it can hurt the institute. I want to send the message to anyone, who wants to become independent politically, expose himself in other directions, that it is not obligatory to work here. I don’t want to stand in the way of anyone’s career, I sign the release form of anyone. We don’t take sides in daily political disputes! Greetings, P

You would think that after such an embarrassment this guy had to resign – but you would be wrong.

You may also believe that he wouldn’t actually carry out his threat – but you would be even more wrong.

But surely, you would think, he would do that in backward, authoritarian Budapest – not in the institute’s Brussels office.

“Come, little Edit, collect your slap, let me slap your face. Why are you liking such things on Facebook?”

– said the above mentioned boss to his young employee, after she liked an anti-Olympics post. Another colleague, Boglárka Szert overheard this delightful and stunningly sexist exchange and stood up against the public humiliation of a young (female) colleague. She was immediately reminded that she “doesn’t need to work here” – and sure enough, two lawyers waited for her next Monday when she arrived at work. She was fired for totally unrelated reasons.


Boglárka Szert stood up against the public humiliation of a colleague who was disciplined for liking something on Facebook. She was fired. Full video

The institute receives 2 million euros annually from the prime minister’s office in order to keep the memory of Hungary’s first, democratically elected prime minister alive. Just in case you missed it.

The case illustrates how creeping authoritarianism doesn’t have to be institutionalized at every level. Authoritarian followers are perfectly capable of enforcing the regime’s (real or perceived) line – even proactively and preemptively. This is not a rare thing in an increasingly authoritarian country. Maybe you are surprised how brazen he was – but locals certainly weren’t.

It also illustrates how these enforcers have absolutely no inhibitions left anymore. They don’t fear neither legal nor reputational consequences. They act under the assumption that the favour of the regime protects them and pays much better.

(Also, this guy has a weird way of both speaking and writing Facebook posts.)

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2 thoughts on “Fired For Defending Free Speech

  1. Pingback: Hungarian Spring? | Meanwhile in Budapest

  2. Pingback: The Pond Is Too Shallow | Meanwhile in Budapest

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