Parliamentary deputy of the oppositional Hungarian Socialist Party MSZP Zsolt Molnar, left, helps MSZP deputy Tamas Harangozo climb the fence of the public broadcaster MTVA in Budapest, Hungary, Monday, Dec. 17, 2018. Oppositional lawmakers protest against the amendments to the labour code adopted on Dec. 12, and insist to read out their demands live in the public media. (Zsolt Szigetvary/MTI via AP)

Hungary: Protesting MPs ejected from state broadcaster HQ

December 17, 2018 - 10:59 am

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Security forces physically ejected Hungarian opposition lawmakers from the headquarters of the Hungarian state broadcaster MTVA in Budapest in the early hours of Monday morning.

In a video posted on opposition lawmaker Bernadett Szel's Facebook page, she and fellow independent opposition lawmaker Akos Hadhazy are seen being pushed out of the MTVA headquarters by security guards.

A group of 10 lawmakers had entered the building, insisting on the right to read five demands live on air. The demands included the revocation of a new labor law, passed last week in parliament, which gives employers the right to request up to 400 hours of overtime annually, without payment settlement for up to three years.

The right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban says the law will help relieve a shortage of labor in Hungary's booming manufacturing sector and allow workers to earn more.

But the "slavery law," as critics have dubbed it, has sparked widespread protests among unions and opposition parties across the political spectrum.

Thousands braved subzero temperatures Sunday to protest in front of the parliament building in Budapest. The crowd grew increasingly angry and chanted, "We've had enough."

An estimated 2,000-3,000 protesters moved on to the state broadcaster, shouting anti-government slogans. After the delegation of opposition MPs were allowed into the building to negotiate their demands, riot police guarding the headquarters outside used pepper spray at least twice to repel protesters trying to break through the cordon.

Hadhazy read the demands in front of a camera early Monday, but it was unclear if they were broadcast.

Protesters returned to the MTVA headquarters on Monday morning and vowed to continue the struggle.

Orban's allies have denounced the protests as the work of liberal groups financed by Hungarian-American financier George Soros. The Open Society Foundations (OSF), an organization founded by Soros, again refuted the accusation on Monday.

"The Hungarian people are protesting against their government because they have legitimate grievances. Nobody believes Viktor Orban's false assertion that George Soros is behind these protests.," the OSF said in a statement.

Balazs Hidveghi, communications director of Orban's governing Fidesz party, on Monday denounced the lawmakers' actions, saying, any attempt by politicians to "forcefully interfere" with operations of the public media is unacceptable. He accused the lawmakers of setting off a fire alarm and "violently attacking public TV staff."

Video broadcast by the protesters showed Hadhazy trying to evade security staff in the MTVA building and enter the studio section by climbing the banisters of a staircase. Security staff prevented Hadhazy's progress.

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