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Gothár Case: Demand for Further Consequences vs. Fear of Political Ulterior Motives

Fanni Kaszás 2019.12.05.

The sexual harassment case of theater director Péter Gothár continues: while the University of Theater and Film Arts is currently investigating whether he had similar incidents at the university, pro-government newspapers and politicians are demanding the resignation of leaders of “liberal art institutions” associated with Gothár. Several actors and directors have spoken out on the matter, signaling that they condemn the acts of the director, but find it preposterous that some are using the case for political purposes. In the meantime, women’s organizations started a petition and demonstration with the aim to remove Gothár’s works from all theaters until the end of the investigation.

On Wednesday, during the internal investigation of the Gothár case at the University of Theater and Film Arts, representatives of women’s associations gathered in front of the Katona József Theater, where they said they wanted “all theaters to take Péter Gothár’s productions off their schedule until the end of the thorough investigation of the director’s harassment case.” They added that an online petition would be also launched. Previously, Átrium Theater was condemned by several politicians and pro-government news sites for not removing “The Lonesome West,” directed by Gothár, from their schedule.

Theater Director Péter Gothár Dismissed for “Crossing Moral Boundaries” with Co-Workers

Kinga Szőnyi, president of the Association of Hungarian Women, an organization with Christian and patriotic values, pointed out that Péter Gothár teaches future generations at the University of Theater and Film Arts, so now many parents are afraid to let their children attend the university. She added that “Hungarian theaters cannot lose talented girls or boys who do not want to study in such an environment.” Szőnyi added that if a similar event occurs in the future, they will likewise act in the same way.

On the same day, the Ethics Committee of the University of Theater and Film Arts held a hearing of the Gothár case. A representative was also sent by the Ministry of Innovation and Technology to the committee, and the institution’s psychologist began listening to students who are – or were – taught by Peter Gothár, and they will prepare an anonymous written summary of the outcome of the discussions.

Atv.hu asked László Palkovics, Minister of Innovation and Technology if the university had any responsibility in the Gothár case and whether the deputy-rector, László Upor, who is leading the university should resign. The minister said that different matters should be separated. “The fact that the director of the Katona theater, Gábor Máté, has known for a year that a director was harassing his colleagues and did nothing about it is not right or acceptable. This is his leadership responsibility, and as I see it, it is probably a crime as well. So the problem was basically in the theater,” said Palkovics. The minister added that at the university there is only a presumption, and they do not yet know if anything had happened, so he wouldn’t draw conclusions just now. Earlier, several Fidesz politicians said that both the leaders of Katona and the university should leave because of the Gothár case.

Fidesz Wants Dismissal of Katona Theater Management after Director’s Scandal

While pro-government news portals are attacking the two institutions and their leaders, demanding their resignation, several artists have spoken out against using the case for political purposes.

Pál Mácsai, the recently re-appointed director of Örkény Theater, was a guest of Egon Rónai’s at Hungarian leftist television channel ATV, where he talked about the Gothár case. Mácsai said it really distresses him and the entire theater profession. The actor-director added that he didn’t think this was a political issue and to use such a more than regrettable case for political purposes is both harmful and wrong.

Attila Janisch wrote about the same thing in his article published in Magyar Narancs in connection with the Gothár case. Janisch, who is thought to be a liberal thinker, wrote, among other things, about how enthusiastically the pro-government media writes about the Gothár case, while the government had refused to vote in the European Parliament on a proposal to end violence against women (i.e. the Istanbul Convention).

However, in Janisch’s view, the zeal that the “unreservedly pro-government newspapers and television channels” are dealing with the matter actually involves a different kind of effort. According to the director, these debates “distract people from the essence of the case. For them, it’s not the actual eradication and prevention of violence against women that is important, but the smear campaigns against the left-liberal politicians and cultural institutions.”

The University of Theater and Film Arts held a hearing on the Gothár case on Wednesday, but has not decided on the matter yet. It is still unknown to the public what the famous Hungarian director has done exactly. All that has been revealed is him having “crossed moral boundaries several times.”

featured photo: Zsolt Szigetváry/MTI