March 15th, 2011

Throngs protest Hungarian media law in Budapest; organizers say largest demo since 1989

Tens of thousands of demonstrators protested Hungary’s media law in Budapest on Tuesday, on the day marking the anniversary of the 1848-49 revolution and war of independence from Habsburg rule and the day of press freedom.

Anna Vamos, the protest’s chief organiser, said demonstrators were dissatisfied with amendments to the media law and believed they failed to bring the legislation in line with European Union norms. They also protested the media authority’s power to arbitrary levy fines on media outlets.

The protestors packed into the space in front of a stage erected at one end of Elisabeth Bridge, on one of the capital’s busiest streets.

Renowned Polish journalist Adam Michnik, editor-in-chief of daily Gazeta Wyborcza, told the protestors that one could not speak about freedom in a country where freedom of the press is endangered. Michnik sent a message to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whom he called an old acquaintance, to think about how many of his one-time allies were watching the government’s measures with concern.

Speakers, none of them politicians, also criticised the draft of Hungary’s new constitution, saying that the new supreme law should be approved based on a broad consensus and not without a referendum.

The police did not report any disorder.

The organisers said the demonstration was the biggest civil protest since the 1989 regime change.

Demonstrations against the media law were also held in the Hungarian cities of Debrecen and Gyula, as well as at the Hungarian embassies in Berlin and Bucharest and at Hungary’s Consulate General and UN representation in New York.

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  • Paul

    Largest demo since 1989 eh?
    If true, then The Dear Leader will be no dount raging (a la Adolf stylee) at the Orbanista poodles and his right-wing media lapdogs tonight.
    Still think when this regime falls though it won’t be on something as abstract as media freedom or whether God bosses the constitution. Economics, dear Viktor, economics will be your downfall.

  • Elle

    I suspect another wopping great MSZP lie here. Index claims that there were 30,000 demonstrators, MTI says ‘several tens of thousands, Népszava says ‘a good 10,000, so does Népszabadság. But Magyar Nemzet says there were in all ‘several tens of thousands’ at the various celebratory events; it does not even mention the demonstrators.
    The demo, they say, was held between the Pest end of Erzsébet Bridge and the Ferenciek tere. Now, how the dickens can you get 10,000 people into that space, let alone several times that number?

  • Leto

    “Tens of thousands”? 😀
    15 thousands at most…
    The first idiot’s intonation is just hilarious. 🙂
    “Vissza fogunk jönni” = We will come back
    My comment: Nope, you’ll go down the toilet.

  • Palánta

    I was there. Standing room only from the bridge all
    the way back to the Astoria. A four-lane road.
    That’s enough to fill a stadium; 20,000 at least.
    People of all ages and walks of life.
    Not foreign Hungary haters. Your own people,
    Monsieur Orbán!

  • x

    I stumbled across this event by accident, and thought it must be some political party rally, but couldn’t work out which. There weren’t any flags, so it didn’t seem like Fidesz. there were too many people, no out of date flags, and no piecemeal black uniforms, and hooligan types for it to be Jobbik. There were too many people (and normal people, not hippies) and no bicycles for it to be LMP, and there simply too many people for it to be MSzP. It was huge, and a genuine cross-section of society and everyone was well-behaved. I was impressed. I couldn’t guess how many people there were, but it was a lot.
    On the other hand, I agree with Paul that what Orbán has to worry about is the economy.

  • Prospero

    Orban must be doing a splendid job if all people can complain about is the media law.
    No wonder we have so many foreigners here, seeking a better life.

  • Orban must be doing a splendid job if all people can complain about is the media law.
    Prospero at March 16, 2011 2:23 PM

    It is hardly the blue-collar workers who are protesting, they are busy trying to make ends meet
    And they have been busy for that for some years, so with Orban they have not seen any major improvement
    But they are expecting it to get better. The question is more how big their patience will be

  • Leto

    Yes, he is/they are doing a quite good job indeed.
    According to the latest polls, Fidesz-KDNP practically has retained their two-third majority nearly one year after the elections!

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