Chaos erupts at Hungarian state media headquarters as demonstrators demand air time

Thousands of enraged demonstrators, during the fourth night of angry protests over the past week, marched to the headquarters of Hungarian state television in Óbuda, in the hope that the taxpayer-funded Fidesz propaganda machine that pretends to be a public broadcaster would allow for the demands of the opposition to be read on air. Riot police outside the building tried to keep the crowd at bay, as they were pelted with eggs and other projectiles. Meanwhile a handful of opposition MP’s, including Ágnes Vadai, Bernadett Szél, Ágnes Kunhalmi, László Varjú and Ákos Hadházy, managed to enter the building, engaged in heated exchanges with security, but were ultimately unable to convince the television station to allow for the demands of protesters to be presented to viewers on air. Ms. Vadai, speaking to infuriated demonstrators in front of the public broadcaster’s headquarters, urged them to remain calm and noted that other MP’s were still in the building and were engaged in negotiations with television staff. Ms. Vadai’s words did not appear to have much of an effect, as a growing number demonstrators roared that the crowd ought to storm the building.

Massive demonstration in front of Hungary’s public broadcaster–today nothing more than the taxpayer-funded propaganda organ of Fidesz.

Remarkably, but not surprisingly, the taxpayer-funded television station refused to give air time to ten democratically elected Hungarian MP’s who wanted to read the following in a live broadcast:

  • Rescinding the so-called “slave law” (overtime law)
  • Decrease required overtime hours for police officers
  • The end of Fidesz-run separate courts
  • Hungary must join the European Prosecutor’s Office
  • A non-partisan, independent state broadcaster. The immediate firing of Dániel Papp from the leadership of the state broadcaster.

Meanwhile shortly before 23:00 Budapest time, MP’s still inside the public broadcasters headquarters called on all 66 opposition MP’s to come to the headquarters as well. At the same time, police used tear gas against the first line of demonstrators, while a growing number of protesters called for a push towards storming the building.

The official line as to why MP’s are not being afforded air time is that there is nobody at the television station with authorization to approve this. Rather conveniently, Dániel Papp, who can authorize this, did not pick up his phone all night. Meanwhile, in a typical display of how the public broadcaster functions, the evening news broadcast spent about a minute on the demonstrations from today, with the following brief assessment of the events: “The protests are not a driving force in society.” And in another display of taxpayer-funded media in Hungary, the country’s state news agency, MTI, published an eight sentence summary of the protests.

Sunday offers us three lessons:

  1. Hungary’s opposition parties are finally becoming more aggressive in their tactics against the regime.
  2. Protesters, even after four days of demonstrations, are still furious and there is no sign that the anger is dissipating.
  3. Hungarian state media, functioning under the direct instruction of the ruling party, won’t give an inch and is in no position to even maintain the pretense of fairness in broadcasting.

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