Hungary has fired the national museum director over LGBTQ+ content in World Press Photo exhibition

BUDAPEST – Hungary’s cultural minister on Monday fired the director of the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest, accusing him of failing to comply with a contentious law that bans the display of LGBTQ+ content to minors.

The dismissal of Laszlo L. Simon, who became director of the museum for a five-year term in 2021, came after Hungary’s government determined in late October that five photos on display at the prestigious World Press Photo exhibition violated the law restricting children’s access to content that depicts homosexuality or gender change.

The museum subsequently put a notice on its website and at the entrance to the World Press Photo exhibition — which showcases outstanding photojournalism — that the collection was restricted to visitors over 18.

Writing on his Facebook page on Monday, Simon — a member of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party and a former secretary of state with the cultural ministry — said that neither he nor the museum had deliberately violated Hungary’s 2021 “child protection” law.

“I take note of the decision, but I cannot accept it,” Simon wrote. “As a father of four and a grandparent, I firmly reject the idea that our children should be protected from me or from the institution I run.”

The photographs in question document a community of elderly LGBTQ+ people in the Philippines who have shared a home for decades and cared for each other as they age. The photos show some community members dressed in drag and wearing makeup.

Hungary’s government, led by nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, has restricted the availability of materials that “promote” or depict homosexuality to minors in media, including television, films, advertisements and literature.

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While the government insists that the law is designed to insulate children from what it calls sexual propaganda, it has prompted legal action from 15 countries in the European Union, with the bloc’s Commission President Ursula von der Leyen calling it “a disgrace.”

In a statement, the cultural ministry wrote that Simon had been dismissed over failing to comply with the law, and “by engaging in conduct which made it impossible for him to continue his employment.”

Hungary’s cultural ministry did not respond to a request for comment.