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14 May 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

Hungary’s draconian coronavirus laws could be lifted next month, official says

By Samuel Horti

Hungarian laws that have essentially handed Prime Minister Viktor Orbán unlimited power during the coronavirus pandemic could be retracted next month, according to a senior civil servant.

Orbán’s chief of staff Gergely Gulyas told reporters that the emergency powers, which give the prime minister right to rule by decree indefinitely, could be removed in late June, depending on how the pandemic progresses.

Under the legislation, anyone deemed to be deliberately spreading false information could face five years in prison.

Gulyas also said that restrictions in Budapest might be eased next week, after infection numbers declined in the city.

The news comes after the European Commission said it was monitoring the situation in Hungary every day and considering legal action. The Hungarian laws “may have a chilling effect on freedom of expression”, the commission’s vice president Vĕra Jourová said.

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She was kept “very well informed about the people who were detained about the spread of so-called fake news”, she added.