PRAGUE – The Czech Republic’s new president, Milos Zeman, has ignited a row with the country’s university community after he blocked the professorship of a critic who marched in a gay rights rally.
In a move the council of higher education dubbed “an unprecedented interference” in academic freedom, the head of state refused to rubber stamp lecturer Martin Putna’s nomination.
A literary historian and Catholic Church scholar at Prague’s Charles University, Putna had openly criticized Zeman before his election to the top job in January.
Zeman gave no reason at first for refusing to endorse Putna Friday but spoke up this week after a backlash from the academic community, the media and fellow politicians.
The president, 68, said he took issue with the vulgar wording on a banner Putna had carried at a gay rights rally in 2011. The sign read “Catholic Fags Greet Batora,” aimed at Ladislav Batora, a little-known conservative politician who opposed the rally.