The Hungarian bill granting special powers to the government for the fight against the new coronavirus epidemic aims to stop fake news from undermining the efforts, Zoltán Kovács, the state secretary for international communications and relations, said in a blog post on abouthungary.hu. Kovács reacted to reports on the bill submitted on Friday that would extend the duration of the extraordinary measures (those put in place to fight the coronavirus) until the end of the state of emergency. The bill includes provisions to cover the possibility of a “forced parliamentary break”, which some media said was “prompting concerns”, he said.
The state secretary said that the measure was necessary because “if Parliament has no quorum (because more than half of the MPs are missing), it will not be able to extend the state of emergency. The bill would also prohibit elections or referendums until the end of the state of emergency. “Mind you, Hungary doesn’t have any elections scheduled in the near future,” he noted. The bill would make it a criminal offense to spread false information to confuse large groups of people or hamper the virus containment efforts, Kovács said. “What was the response from the liberal, mainstream press? Orbán is going to jail journalists!” he said. In reaction, Kovács said “Hungarian law is … creating sanction for reckless speech that could impair or thwart efforts to protect people from the spread of the virus. We’re in a state of emergency, by the way. Lives are at stake. This gross distortion of the facts is biased and irresponsible.”