Hungary Fires Museum Director Over Photo Exhibit

World Press Photo Awards

A set of photos featured in the World Press Photo exhibition showing an LGBT community in the Philippines has claimed the job of a museum director in Hungary.

Laszlo L. Simon was dismissed from his post at the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest after the country’s cultural minister accused him of failing to comply with Hungary’s controversial laws that prohibit displaying LGBTQ+ content to minors.

In late October, Hungary’s right-wing populist government determined that the photos contravened the 2021 “child protection” law after a far-right legislator filed a complaint calling them “clearly harmful to minors and, I think, to adults too.”

What Do The Banned Photos Show?

The photos in question were taken by photographer Hannah Reyes Morales and are entitled Home for the Golden Gays: The photos document a community-ran care home for LGBTQ+ residents in Manila, the Philippines and the story was featured in The New York Times.

“The Golden Gays are a community of older LGBTQ+ people from the Philippines who have lived together for decades, sharing a home, caring for each other as they age, and staging shows and pageants to make ends meet,” the World Press Photo website says of the images.

Reyes Morales tells the AP news agency that the subjects in her photos are “icons and role models” to the LGBTQ+ community in the Phillippines, adding they are “not dangerous or harmful.”

“What is harmful is limiting visibility for the LGBTQIA+ community, and their right to exist and to be seen,” Reyes Morales says. “I am beyond saddened that their story might not reach people who need it most, saddened that their story is being kept in a shadow.”

The executive director of World Press Photo, Joumana El Zein Khoury, says she is “shocked” at the Hungarian government’s decision to sack the museum director.

“There is nothing explicit or offensive in these images. This series of photos is a thoughtful and honest record of the lives of a community of older LGBTQI+ people in the Philippines. I encourage anyone to visit our website to see the story and form their own conclusions,” El Zein Khoury tells The Art Newspaper.

Simon used to be a member of Fidesz, the political party that is in power in Hungary and is headed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Despite this, the Hungarian Cultural Minister, Janos Csak, says that Simon “failed to adhere to the legal obligations of the institution… and exhibited behavior that rendered his continued employment unviable.”

Simon disagrees with this assessment: “I take note of the [censorship] decision, but I cannot accept it. 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,” he writes on Facebook.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.