BUDAPEST.- Tens of thousands of protesters rallied in Hungary for the second consecutive Saturday, this time against the media policies and campaign against civic groups pursued by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government. Opposition parties from across the political spectrum participated in this week’s rally.
Organizers said there were over 100,000 people in attendance, comparable to the turnout for the largest pro-Orban event held before Hungary’s April 8 election. Orban won a fourth term and his Fidesz party secured a supermajority in parliament, where its lawmakers now can pass constitutional amendments.
They have promised to quickly approve the “Stop Soros” bill meant to greatly limit the work of non-governmental groups aiding refugees and asylum seekers.
Most of the groups receive funding from George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and Orban, who based his re-election campaign nearly exclusively on his anti-migration policies, argues that the NGOs he deems are “working against Hungary’s interests” have no right to try to influence political decisions.
Organizers of the rallies claim that the pro-government state media and a growing number of private, pro-Fidesz media outlets supported largely by state and government advertisements influenced the election’s outcome.
“We have to step up together to end the deluge of lies flowing from (state) television,” said organizer Gergely Homonnay, a journalist and writer.
“An independent body needs to be created which oversees the operation of public media ... which should not assist political campaigns.”
Student protester Viktor Gyetvai highlighted the diversity of the crowd, which included supporters of parties from the left as well as the nationalist right, along with environmentalists, independents and others.
“I’m sure there are many issues we don’t agree on,” Gyetvai said. “But we might agree that we’d like to be the citizens of a calm, democratic and developing country, free of corruption and without images of the enemy,” Gyetvai said, referring in part to Orban’s constant demonization of migrants.