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BUDAPEST: 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 labour 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 labour 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 on 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.

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.

Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2018