THOUSANDS demonstrated in Hungary for a second weekend demanding a free press and an end to anti-migrant policies.
More than 100,000 gathered in Budapest in renewed anti-government protests after elections saw Viktor Orban’s right-wing nationalist Fidesz party sweep to power again.
His landslide victory has paved the way for the introduction of a so-called “Stop Soros” Bill, designed to cut the flow of cash to foreign non-governmental organisations and universities.
Mr Orban has accused US-based billionaire George Soros of meddling in Hungarian politics and funding a network of NGOs via his Open Foundation Society that is “working against Hungary’s interests.”
Critics say the Bill discriminates against migrants and religious and ethnic minorities, accusing Mr Orban of waging an anti-semitic campaign against Mr Soros.
Press freedom is severely restricted in Hungary, with many media organisations owned by allies of Mr Orban.
In 2016, the government closed down the largest opposition newspaper Nepszabadsag, which was believed to have uncovered a series of scandals involving the ruling party.
Fidesz claimed it was an “economic decision,” but opposition parties, activists and journalists blamed the move on Mr Orban’s desire to control the media.
Demonstration organisers claim state-owned media is being used as Mr Orban’s “personal propaganda machine,” warning that the growing number of media organisations loyal to the prime minister seriously compromised the recent election.
Protesters came from the left but also the nationalist right, with a small number of pro-EU flags on display in opposition to Mr Orban’s increasingly hostile relationship with Brussels.
But most of those present were concerned with the unhealthy political influence of state-owned media, calling for scrutiny and an end “to the deluge of lies flowing from state television.”
Mayor of Hodmezovasarhely Peter Marki-Zay, who unexpectedly beat the ruling Fidesz party candidate in February’s election, vowed protesters would continue to fight “against their media dominance and factories of lies.
“History has proved that no oppressive regime lasts forever,” he said, adding that the mass demonstrations showed that “there is hope … that we are not alone. This regime is held together only by fear. If from tomorrow no-one is afraid, tomorrow this regime will fail.”
Mr Orban accuses the opposition demonstrations of being funded by Mr Soros.
“I know they won’t accept the result of the election. They will organise all sorts of things, they have unlimited financial resources,” he said.