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Fidesz MEP rejects EP rules on political ads as ‘opportunity for Brussels censorship’

An MEP of ruling Fidesz has rejected new European Union regulations on political advertising, saying the rules would give Brussels an opportunity to "exercise censorship during election campaigns in member states and to influence their outcome".

The regulation will “clearly curb member states’ sovereignty,” Edina Toth said in a statement after the EP’s plenary session on Tuesday, where the new rules on the transparency of political advertising were adopted with 470 votes in favour, 50 against and 105 abstentions.

The measures’ objective was clearly “to set up rules in Brussels on what a political campaign can talk about, curbing the competencies of member states”, Toth said, saying the measure amounted to “curbing the free expression of opinion”.

“We shall stand up to the attacks on our freedom! We shall not give in to stealthy attempts to expand Brussels’ competencies,” she said.

Hungary saw the step as a politically motivated attempt to influence election rules in member states, and a violation of the principle of subsidiarity, she said.

“It is sad to see the chief advocates of freedom of opinion violating the freedom of speech and working constantly on censoring opinions they don’t like,” she added, rejecting that EU institutions should have power over opinions criticising the EU.

At the plenary session on Tuesday, the EP adopted rules on regulating political adverts to make elections and referendums “more transparent and resistant to interference”, the EP said in a statement. “Under the new rules, political advertising will have to be clearly labelled. Citizens, authorities and journalists will be able to easily obtain information on whether they are being targeted with an ad, who is paying for it, how much is being paid, and to which elections or referendum it is linked. All political advertising and related information will be stored in a public online repository. To limit foreign interference in European democratic processes, sponsoring ads from outside the EU will be prohibited in the three-month period before an election or referendum,” the EP said. The regulation bans the use of special categories of personal data such as ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, the statement said.

The regulation is yet to be adopted by the European Council.

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