‘From the Soviet era’: Danish MEPs hit out at Hungary over anti-migration Facebook video

Several Danish members of the European parliament have spoken out against a controversial Hungarian anti-immigration video.

'From the Soviet era': Danish MEPs hit out at Hungary over anti-migration Facebook video
Guy Verhofstadt and Marton Benedek of the Hungarian opposition party Momentum brief the media in front of a billboard showing Hungarian PM Viktor Orban. Photo: REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/Ritzau Scanpix

A number of Danish MEPs have criticised the video, which has been targeted towards Facebook users in Denmark.

The video attributes pro-migration views to Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group in the European Parliament, by using a 2014 clip of Verhofstadt which is taken out of context.

Verhofstadt has twice this week asked Facebook to remove the video, which he said was “demonstrably manipulated” and “heavily distorted”, the Financial Times reports.

“This reminds me of something from the Soviet era, when propaganda blossomed in this way. This is a state making manipulative propaganda in order to influence citizens in another country,” Social Democrat MEP Jeppe Kofod said.

“It’s an attack on our freedom and our sovereignty in Denmark. I consider it over the line and a provocation,” Kofod continued.

“This breaks with the free democracy we have in Europe and we cannot accept it. I will raise the issue with Hungary,” he said.

Posted by the Hungarian government’s official Facebook page, the video has been spread across the EU, with target groups including Danes over the age of 32.

Morten Helveg Petersen, an MEP with the Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) party, said he had not previously experienced anything like the ad.

“This shows there are forces in Europe which do not want to promote an open and free society. These are the kind of methods used in an organised, state-sponsored campaign of fear,” Petersen said.

The video represents an escalation in tensions between Hungary and the EU, according to the Danish MEP. The union has warned its member state on a number of occasions about potentially anti-democratic activity.

Not all Danish politicians consider the video worthy of criticism.

Kenneth Kristensen Berth, MP with the anti-immigration and Eurosceptic Danish People’s Party, dismissed the remarks made by the two MEPs.

Berth said it was “a little peculiar for another country’s government to send out a message in that way,” but had no issue with the message itself.

“I think the way it is presented is within the realms of fairness,” he said.

“So I don’t think there’s any need to reach the hysterical level Jeppe Kofod and Morten Helveg are doing here,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Hungarian government said of the campaign that, “while hundreds of people are being killed in terror attacks,” Verhofstadt “wants more migration”.

“He and his clique of European liberals are pushing for more migration. That is crazy and we will not let it go unanswered,” he said to news agency Ritzau.

“Mr Verhofstadt said himself that he wants more migration. We don’t want more migration. Not just illegal migration – ‘regulated’ migration is also against our principles,” the spokesperson continued.

At a Brussels summit last week, President of the EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker accused Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán of spreading ‘fake news’.

READ ALSO: Danish MEP pushes UK Danes to vote locally against Brexit


Denmark proposes new law to make Facebook pay for news and music

The government is to forward a bill on Friday proposing tech giants such as Facebook and Google pay Danish media for using content on their platforms.

Denmark proposes new law to make Facebook pay for news and music
File photo: Regis Duvignau/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

The proposal will also mean platforms used to share media, such as YouTube, will be required to make agreements with rights holders in order to display videos or music, the Ministry of Culture said in a statement.

A comparable law recently took effect in Australia, resulting in all news pages being temporarily blocked for Facebook users in the southern hemisphere country.

READ ALSO: Could Denmark force Facebook to pay for news content?

“The media plays a central role in our democracy and ensures that public debate takes place on an infrormed basis,”culture minister Joy Mogensen said in the statement.

“If the media are to be able to continue making journalism, they should of course be paid for its use,” she added.

The proposal will provide for rights holders such as musicians or media outlets to be given a new publishing right which will enable them to decide who can use their content.

As such, companies like Facebook and Google will need permission to use the content online.

The Danish proposal builds on an EU directive which gives individual media outlets the right to agree deals with tech giants.

The bill put forward by Mogensen will allow Danish media to make a collective agreement with the tech companies providing for payment when their content is used.

An interest organisation for Danish media companies has backed the proposal.

“We have wanted to be able to enter collective agreements with tech giants because that would strengthen the media companies’ position,” Louise Brincker, CEO of Danske Medier, told newspaper Berlingske. Brincker noted she had not yet read the full proposal.

Media will not be obliged to make agreements with the tech companies, however. Complaints to the Danish copyright board, Ophavsretslicensnævnet, will be possible under the new law, should it be passed by parliament.

The bill will become law on June 7th should it receive the backing of a parliamentary majority.

Both Facebook and Google decline to comment to Berlingske on the matter, stating they had yet to see the bill in full.