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Imre Kertész accuses The New York Times of censorship

November 14th, 2014

Two conservative columnists accuse The New York Times of bias for deciding not to publish an interview with Imre Kertész Nobel prize winning novelist who dismissed the idea that Hungary was a dictatorship.

In an interview in The Hungarian Quarterly’s Holocaust special issue, Nobel Laureate writer Imre Kertész mentioned that The New York Times did not publish an interview made with him last year after Kertész refused to call Hungary a dictatorship. Kertész said that the reporter “had come with the intention of getting me to say that Hungary is a dictatorship, which it isn’t”. The Hungarian writer added that he has never been completely satisfied in any period of his life, but the accusation that the country is a dictatorship “is empty ideological language”. Népszabadság, however, claims that there was no censorship involved in the decision not to publish the interview. The daily contacted the reporter at the New York Times who made the interview. David Streitfeld said he never used the word “dictatorship” in his questions and Kertész just told him he was tired and did not take part in public life in Hungary. The interpreter, Thomas Cooper, made a separate interview with Imre Kertész for The Hungarian Quarterly and did not question Kertész’s description of their meeting with David Streitfeld.

In Magyar Hírlap, Ferenc Sinkovics suspects that the unpublished Kertész interview was commissioned by The New York Times in order to strengthen the impression that Hungary is becoming a dictatorship. The pro-government columnist speculates that The New York Times, which has repeatedly criticized the Hungarian government, serves the interests of hidden financial “background powers” and wants to help the US and the EU increase the pressure on the Orbán government. As it turns out, the prestigious daily censors unwelcome opinions, and thus its claims that racism is increasing in Hungary while democratic institutions are being weakened, cannot be taken seriously, Sinkovics maintains.

In her Magyar Nemzet editorial entitled “A Free Man”,  Zsuzsanna Körmendy appreciates “Kertész’s sense of reality and moderation,” especially in comparison to “important artists like (conductor) Iván Fischer and (pianist) András Schiff, who “are unable to resist the siren-songs of suggested answers” in their meetings with western reporters.

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