Hungary anti-LGBT law sees under-18s barred from World Press Photo exhibition | Hungary

People younger than 18 have been barred from visiting this year’s World Press Photo exhibition in Budapest after Hungary’s rightwing populist government decided that some of its photos violate a contentious law restricting LGBTQ+ content.

The prestigious exhibition, being shown at Hungary’s National Museum in Budapest, receives more than four million visitors from around the world every year. Showcasing outstanding photojournalism, its mission is to bring visual coverage of a range of important events to a global audience.

A set of five photos by the Filipino photojournalist Hannah Reyes Morales led a far-right Hungarian lawmaker to file a complaint with the cultural ministry, which found that they violate a Hungarian law that prohibits the display of LGBTQ+ content to minors. Now, even with parental consent, those under 18 are no longer allowed to visit the exhibition.

The photographs – which document a community of elderly LGBTQ+ people in the Philippines who have shared a home for decades and cared for each other as they age – depict some community members dressed in drag and wearing make up.

Joumana El Zein Khoury, executive director of World Press Photo, called it worrisome that a photo series “that is so positive, so inclusive” had been targeted by Hungary’s government. It was the first time that one of the exhibitions had faced censorship in Europe, she said.

“The fact that there is limited access for a certain type of audience is really something that shocked us terribly,” Khoury said. “It’s mind-boggling that it’s this specific image, this specific story, and it’s mind-boggling that it’s happening in Europe.”

Tamas Revesz, a former World Press Photo jury member who has been the organiser of Hungary’s exhibitions for over three decades, said many of the photographs in the exhibition – such as coverage of the war in Ukraine – are “a thousand times more serious and shocking” than Morales’ series.

Given that around half of the roughly 50,000 people who visit the exhibition in Hungary each year are students, he said, thousands of Hungarian youth will be unable to view the collection – even those images not containing LGBTQ+ content.

The move to bar young people from the exhibition was the latest by Hungary’s government – led by the nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orbán – to restrict the availability of materials that promote or depict homosexuality to minors in media, including television, films, advertisements and literature.

While the government insists that the 2021 “child protection” law is designed to insulate children from what it calls sexual propaganda, it has prompted legal action from 15 countries in the EU, with the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, calling it “a disgrace”.

Reyes Morales, the photographer, said in an emailed statement that the subjects in her photographs serve as “icons and role models” to LGBTQ+ people in the Philippines, and that they are “not dangerous or harmful”.

Hungary’s cultural ministry did not respond to an interview request.

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