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Scandals on the sidelines of the student movement

February 21st, 2013

Népszabadság understands why the police are concerned about what form spontaneous protests may take. In the same issue it condemns a far-right dominated student body for keeping files on students.

HaHa, the radical minority student movement accuses the police of harassment after officers interrogated their militants during a sit in and an improvised demonstration on Monday. In another scandal, the Jobbik-dominated student council of the Budapest Humanities Faculty denounced lecturers who sympathise with the student protestors. In a letter to the rector of ELTE University they accused those lecturers of instigating students to protest on political grounds. The rector’s office said the letter would be ignored, unlike a document released by the left-wing ATV television station, which appeared to prove that the far right-wing leaders of the Humanities Student Council have kept files on the ethnic origins, religion, political affiliation of first year students, as well as on the sex appeal of female students. The university has suspended the licence of the Student Council and filed a criminal complaint with the prosecutor’s office. The chairman of the Privacy and Freedom of Information Agency said the issue may constitute a serious criminal offence.

In a sarcastic comment in Népszabadság, Péter Ujj says there is no other country in the world where a simple student movement can spark such a wide array of entertaining episodes. He suggests that Hungary could build an internationally attractive entertainment industry around such events. “We could become the centre of Europe’s show business,” Ujj suggests, ironically.

In a more serious front page editorial, Népszabadság calls the Excel files containing personal information on students, ‘hideous.’ “At the time of the regime change we were certain that no more files would be kept on ordinary people,” the left-wing daily notes. Although these files were kept by extreme right-wingers, the authors continue, nowadays parties wanting to win the elections also keep more or less illegal files on voters.

Népszabadság’s crime analyst, Attila Gy Fekete does not take sides over the “police harassment” issue, but understands why the authorities have changed their attitude towards radical student protestors. He reminds readers of the initially friendly atmosphere around improvised student marches, when police cleared the way and protected the marches against potential provocateurs – a fact loudly acclaimed by the student demonstrators. He believes nevertheless that it was the duty of the police to keep an eye on the spontaneous movement, for it did not have any identifiable leaders to negotiate with. And since during the spontaneous meetings the idea of occupying Danube bridges was circulated, the police felt it had to make sure that a few hundred protestors would not paralyse traffic in Hungary’s capital.

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