Hungarian prime minister criticized for new media laws

43111.jpegViktor Orban Prime Minister of Hungary confronted critics in the European Parliament on Wednesday, defending his economic policies and a new media law as his country takes on the presidency of the European Union.

When Mr. Orban rose to speak in the parliament's chamber in Strasbourg, France, dozens of members of the EU legislature put tape over their mouths in protest against what they see as overly restrictive limits on freedom of expression in Hungary, Wall Street Journal reports.

"We lived under a dictatorship for 40 years," Mr. Orban said at the Parliament, in Strasbourg, France. "I will not stand for you contesting the democratic aspirations of Hungarians."

For Mr. Orban, the session provided an uneasy start for his and Hungary's turn at the rotating six-month European Union presidency.

The media law has become a symbol for wider worries about the drift of politics in Hungary - where critics say Mr. Orban has stoked nationalist fervor and consolidated power. It has also crystallized worries that while countries need to meet democratic standards in order to join the bloc, there is little to restrain them once they are full members.

The new law requires news organizations to register with an authority appointed by the Hungarian Parliament, where Mr. Orban has an overwhelming majority. The news outlets are required to respect "human dignity" and observe balanced reporting and can be fined for a breach of the rules. Critics fear that Mr. Orban's allies will use the law to stifle opposition, according to New York Times.


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