Protect the Philosophers!
We are concerned about the political and professional fate of our Hungarian colleagues. At the center of the conflict are Agnes Heller, Mihály Vajda, and Sándor Radnóti, who publicly criticized the President of Hungary, President Orbán, because of the adoption of questionable laws concerning the media. Heller and Vajda were already persecuted as dissidents during the Communist regime: They were stripped of their posts as professors in 1973 and had to emigrate in 1977. Now, under the nationalist government, which has used its two-thirds majority to erode the Hungarian constitution, they are again exposed to political persecution. The press loyal to the national government is agitating against an indeterminately wide “circle of liberal philosophers” around these persons—and in doing so uses an expression, “liberal,” which meanwhile has been given a highly negative connotation, a connotation of the unpatriotic and cosmopolitan attitude of Jewish intellectuals.
Things have gotten to such a point that Agnes Heller—who in Germany has been awarded not only the Lessing Prize and the Hannah Arendt Prize, but was even honored just last year in Weimar with the Goethe Medal by the Goethe Institute during a lavish ceremony—has made a criminal complaint against the newspaper Magyar Nemzet (“Hungarian Nation”) because of these vulgar attacks.
Given this, we call on the European Commission not only to subject the Hungarian media law to a long-overdue legal assessment, but that, at the same time, in the course of this assessment, it ought also to take into account the general practices of the Hungarian regime and its agents, and in this case especially it ought to examine the treatment of critical academics and intellectuals.
In the question of whether, in a country that today represents the European Union, essential principles of a liberal constitutional order may be injured, the European parliament abstains from giving an answer; the Council of the European Union is, as usual, divided; and the German federal government makes merely tight-lipped statements.
In the case of China, the European Union quite rightly calls for compliance with human rights; but, apparently, in its own house, it doesn’t keep such a sharp eye on things. That is the scandal within the scandal.
Julian Nida-Rümelin is the president and Jürgen Habermas an honorary member of the German Society for Philosophy.
© Süddeutsche Zeitung GmbH, München. Mit freundlicher Genehmigung von http://www.sz-content.de (Süddeutsche Zeitung Content).
 This article appeared in the Süddeutsche Zeitung on January 25, 2011. Translated from the German by D. P. O’Connell. Link to online version: http://www.sueddeutsche.de/kultur/aufruf-von-habermas-und-nida-ruemelin-schuetzt-die-philosophen-1.1050449
 Persönlichkeitsrechten: here the “Right of Publicity” is meant.