Nobel winner joins scientists' protest of Hungarian policies

AP News
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Posted: Oct 20, 2016 4:26 PM

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — A Nobel Prize-winning scientist said Thursday he had resigned as an external member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences to protest the "repressive policies" of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government.

Torsten Wiesel, a co-winner of the 1981 Nobel Prize in Medicine, joined four other foreign scientists who also have renounced their positions as external members of the academy.

Wiesel, a Swedish-born neurobiologist who served as president of The Rockefeller University in New York, confirmed his resignation in an email to The Associated Press.

"The academy has wisely stayed out of politics and focused on its mission in science and education," Wiesel said. "My resignation should be considered in a broader context of protest, which is expressed in a statement prepared by the resigning external members."

Some of the others include Thomas Jovin from the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Germany and Hungarian-born cognitive scientist Stevan Harnad from the University of Southampton.

"In Hungary today democracy is under a dark cloud that is seriously threatening freedom of expression, human rights and even the rule of law," said their statement, which calls on other external members to join the protest. "We are witnessing with alarm and dismay the relentless and unchecked deterioration of social freedom and justice under Hungary's current government."

The five scientists also said they supported a petition to Hungarian Academy of Sciences President Laszlo Lovasz from 28 Hungarian members calling on the academy to "initiate substantive discussion ... about the anti-democratic developments in Hungary, especially freedom of the press."

Concerns about media diversity in Hungary have escalated since the indefinite suspension of the left-leaning Nepszabadsag newspaper on Oct. 8.

The paper's publishers cited financial losses and falling readership, but the unexpected and puzzling nature of the decision, which also resulted in the nearly 60-year-old paper's extensive online archive going dark — has raised widespread speculation about possible political motives.