Fear and (Self-)Censorship in Academia

Concerns with media freedom in Hungary go back years and they are also used as the case study for the Reverse Solange proposal presented on this blog. The most recent event is the takeover of the largest online news portal, Index, where the entire staff left as a response. A less documented arena is the academic setting we work in and which influences our work and everyday life. In both fields, takeover and blatant censorship is but the tip of the iceberg: the most visible part and indicative of a larger problem. In this post, I describe the problem through illustrative cases and discuss possible responses.

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Violation of Freedoms and Judges in Turkey

Sometimes the voice of the president, who cannot be silenced, is one of the few that resound freely to recall the principles and values that are assumed to be typical of Europe. Holding a lecture at one of the Istanbul universities that offered him an honorary degree, the President of the European Court Robert Spano began by saying that he accepted that honour not only because it was a protocol moment, never refused in any member state of the Council of Europe, but also because the ceremony gave him the opportunity to underline the importance of academic freedom and freedom of expression in a democracy governed by the rule of law.

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“Passport Trade”: A Vicious Cycle of Nonsense in the Netherlands

“How can you justify the fact that your work was translated into Russian? This goes against the claim that you engage in academic work. Is Russian not the language of billionaires interested in getting another citizenship?” Following the persistent repetition of this question by a four-person independent investigation committee installed by my home University, my lawyer, seeing that I have no words – indeed, am unable to speak – asks for a break and leads me out of the room. We sit on the steps in front of the beautiful Academy building. This is Groningen, January 2020, I am a Dutch professor of European Constitutional Law and Citizenship here and Russian is my mother tongue.

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Repression of Freedom of Expression in Poland: Renewing support for Wojciech Sadurski

In pre-COVID19 times we drew attention (here and here) to the fact that our colleague, Professor Wojciech Sadurski, faces multiple civil and criminal cases in Poland resulting from his tweets which were critical of the ruling party. The cases were brought against him by the current government and its associates. Unfortunately, COVID19 has evidently not changed their priorities

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What a Journal Makes: As we say goodbye to the European Law Journal

On January 31st, the Editorial and Advisory Boards of the European Law Journal resigned en masse from their positions in protest after the publisher, Wiley, decided that it was not willing to ‘give away’ control and authority over editorial appointments and decisions to the academics on the journal’s Boards. We recount our small act of resistance here because we think there may be lessons for the wider academic community.

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It’s Not Just About CEU: Understanding the Systemic Limitation of Academic Freedom in Hungary

Recently, there have been great disputes about the state of academic freedom in Hungary. As the country moved from democracy to electoral autocracy, its government started to limit individual and institutional academic freedom at a systemic level. This blog entry wants to explain how systemic limitation of academic freedom works in the higher education of the country, and how the general attack against check and balances affect the academic system.

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The CEU Leaves – Hungarian Students are Left in the Lurch

For 27 years Central European University has operated in Hungary’s capital. That era has come to an end. The forced move of the CEU to Vienna signals to Hungarians and other citizens in illiberal democracies that vulnerability is their future. They are left to the wayside by the international community, abandoned by the European Union, and left questioning who will ever defend liberal-democratic values in practice.

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The Hungarian Constitutional Court betrays Academic Freedom and Freedom of Association

On 5 June the Hungarian Constitutional Court issued two injunction decisions, almost identical in their texts, which suspend the constitutional review procedures against two laws enacted in early April, 2017 by the Hungarian Parliament, outside the normal legislative process. The first, an amendment to the Act on National Higher Education known as „Lex CEU“ was challenged by a constitutional complaint, the second, the Act of the Transparency of Organizations Receiving Foreign Funds by 60 opposition MPs of the Hungarian Parliament with an abstract norm control notion. The handling of these two petitions by the Constitutional Court was odd in more than just one respect.

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The Return of the Sovereign: A Look at the Rule of Law in Hungary – and in Europe

The Hungarian law makers have enacted a law that will make the operation of foreign-funded universities all but impossible, and aim to do the same to foreign-funded NGOs. These measures fail to meet even the most basic features of how legal rules are envisioned in a rule of law framework. The carefully crafted new Hungarian laws use the cloak of national security to stab the rule of law, as understood in Europe, in the heart.

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