Budapest (AFP)

Several thousand Hungarians, including the liberal mayor of Budapest and prominent cultural figures, demonstrated Monday night to defend artistic freedom in response to a plan to reform the government of Viktor Orban reinforcing control over the theaters.

Many directors and actors have participated in the rally in the center of Budapest as the cultural sector has been in turmoil since the Hungarian conservative majority unveiled its reform project.

Published Monday on the site of the Parliament, the text could be put to the vote of the deputies as of Wednesday.

The government has justified its desire to strengthen its control over publicly-funded theaters after a resounding affair of morality in one of Budapest's renowned institutions.

As a result, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party ransacked theaters that "demand money from the government while denying access to their affairs and hiding crimes for years."

If the bill is passed, a representative of the state will now intervene in the selection of theater directors, said Monday a spokesman for the government, Istvan Hollik.

Reform opponents accuse the government of using the recent scandal to curtail the artistic independence of theaters, which sometimes produce critical works against the government.

Since Viktor Orban's return to power in 2010, many independent institutions have been reformed by his nationalist party, which is regularly criticized for undermining the balance of power and the rule of law.

In particular, the justice, education and press sectors have been subjected to a more centralized organization.

In recent days, several well-known directors and actors have launched a campaign against the new law through videos on social networks.

In one of them, the actress Judit Pogany is moved by the return of a form of state censorship: "after thirty years of democracy, I did not think that I would feel the same thing as at the time, "says one whose career began under the communist regime. More than 45,000 people signed a petition against the reform.

"When we defend the freedom of the theater, we defend the freedom of the city," the liberal mayor of Budapest Gergely Karacsony, who opposed Viktor Orban, whom he defeated in October the mayor's candidate for mayor, also told the demonstrators.

© 2019 AFP