Hungary bans under-18s from photo exhibition over images portraying LGBTQ+ people

The cultural ministry of Hungary has barred under 18s from the World Press Photo exhibition under a controversial anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda law.

The image shows a split screen of three of the photos banned from under-18s at the World Press Photo Exhibition in Hungary. The three images show older LGBTQ+ people from the Philippines in drag.
Image: @hannahreyesmorales via Instagram

The conservative government in Hungary has imposed a controversial barring order on people younger than 18 from visiting the World Press Photo exhibition after it deemed some of the images to be in breach of the country’s infamous anti-LGBTQ+ laws.

The prestigious exhibition of award-winning journalistic images, which has been touring globally since September, is currently being shown at Hungary’s National Museum in Budapest. 

The annual event aimed at showcasing outstanding photojournalism receives more than four million visitors from around the world every year, with roughly 50,000 expected to visit the Budapest exhibition alone, generating vital tourism revenue for the city.

After visiting the exhibition, a local lawmaker filed a complaint with Hungary’s cultural ministry that five images by the Filipino photojournalist Hannah Reyes Morales violated the so-called “anti-LGBT propaganda” law.

Introduced in 2021 under the right-wing government led by Viktor Orbán, the law in question prohibits the portrayal of LGBTQ+ issues and identities in content destined for minors.

Reyes Morales’s photographs document a community of older LGBTQ+ people in the Philippines who have shared a home for decades and care for one another as they age. Some of the images in the series portray some subjects dressed in drag and wearing make-up.


Expressing her concern over the decision to ban under-18s from seeing the show, Joumana El Zein Khoury, executive director of World Press Photo, said it is the first time that one of the exhibitions has faced censorship in Europe.

She was particularly concerned that the targeted images were “so positive, so inclusive”, and added that “The fact that there is limited access for a certain type of audience is really something that shocked us terribly.”

She continued, “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 and organiser of Hungary’s exhibitions for over three decades, emphasised that many of the images of war in the show were “a thousand times more serious and shocking” than Reyes Morales’s series.

He also highlighted that the ban now means that thousands of Hungarian youth will be unable to view the collection, including those not deemed to contain LGBTQ+ content.

In a statement, Reyes Morales said the subjects in her photographs serve as “icons and role models” to the LGBTQ+ community in the Philippines, and they are “not dangerous or harmful.”

She continued, “What is harmful is limiting visibility for the LGBTQIA+ community, and their right to exist and to be seen. I am beyond saddened that their story might not reach people who need it most, saddened that their story is being kept in a shadow.”

Currently, 15 EU member states have filed legal action against Hungary’s 2021 “child protection” law. Ireland is one of the signatories supporting the action.

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