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People march across the Freedom Bridge over the River Danube in downtown Budapest during a gay pride parade in Budapest in July.

Hungary's parliament has passed a resolution authorizing the government to hold a national referendum on LGBT issues, putting the right-wing ruling party further at odds with the European Union and activists who view laws passed earlier this year as discriminatory.

Lawmakers from Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party on November 30 approved four referendum questions related to sex-education programs in schools and the presentation of sexual content in the media.

"The Hungarian government proposes that citizens should have a chance to express their stance on the issues of gender propaganda," Deputy Minister Balazs Orban told parliament.

"We are committed. We believe that we...have to say no to LGBT propaganda in schools carried out with the help of NGOs and media, without parental consent."

Prime Minister Orban has pushed for a referendum after the government passed a series of laws in June that the European Commission and members of the LGBT community view as an attack on the rights of LGBT people by stigmatizing sexual minorities and stifling discourse on sexual orientation.

The laws, which were added to legislation strengthening penalties for crimes of pedophilia, sets limits on schools' teaching about homosexuality and transgender issues as well as the depiction of LGBT content in the media.

Orban says the LGBT-related measures aim to protect children and families and do not target adults.

The European Commission, the bloc's executive, launched two separate legal proceedings against Hungary's government over what it called infringements on LGBT rights.

The referendum questions will ask whether voters support sexual-orientation lessons for minors in public education without parental consent as well as whether they back the "promotion" of gender-reassignment treatment for minors.

Voters will also be asked whether they support "unrestricted sexual media content for minors that affects their development" and the "display of gender-sensitive media content to minors."

Based on the parliamentary vote, the referendum can be held alongside national elections scheduled for the spring in which Orban and his Fidesz party are expected to face stiff competition for the first time in nearly a decade.

The government argues that holding the referendum the same day as parliamentary elections would save money, but critics say the timing is designed to shore up Orban's conservative base.

Critics say Fidesz has stepped up its anti-LGBT campaign as part of an ongoing drive to depict itself as the guardian of Christian values against Western liberalism that also included blocking migrants from transiting Hungary and closing down privately-owned liberal media institutions.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Hungarian Service, AP, and Reuters
Andrey Kuznechyk (file photo)

A freelance journalist who has worked for RFE/RL's Belarus Service has been sentenced to 10 days in jail on hooliganism charges as authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues his crackdown on independent media.

Andrey Kuznechyk's relatives told RFE/RL on November 30 that they had learned the journalist had been handed a 10-day jail term four days before. According to the relatives, Kuznechyk refused to accept the guilty verdict and was currently being held in Minsk's notorious Akrestsina detention center, where many inmates have said they were tortured.

Kuznechyk went out for a bike ride on November 25 before returning accompanied by four men in plainclothes, according to his wife, Alesya Rak.

The four men, who did not present any identification, then searched their apartment, Rak said, only avoiding the rooms of their two young children.

Kuznechyk was then led away by the group of four, who did not give any reason for his detention.

Tensions have been running high in Belarus since Lukashenka, in power since 1994, was declared the winner of a presidential election in August 2020 that opponents and the West say was rigged.

Many Western governments have since refused to recognize Lukashenka as the legitimate leader of Belarus, leaving the Belarusian strongman more reliant than ever on Russia, which analysts say is using his weakened position to strengthen its hold over its smaller neighbor.

Crisis In Belarus

Read our ongoing coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues his brutal crackdown on NGOs, activists, and independent media following the August 2020 presidential election, widely seen as fraudulent.

Tens of thousands of people have been detained, and human rights activists say more than 800 people are now in jail as political prisoners.

Independent media and opposition social media channels have been targeted as well.

"The regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka continues its effort to crush all independent media in Belarus," RFE/RL President Jamie Fly said the day of Kuznechyk's detention.

"Andrey was kidnapped by agents of the regime for nothing more than being a journalist. The regime also targeted one of our social media accounts, attempting to cut off more channels of information for the Belarusian people. Andrey should be released immediately and allowed to return to his wife and young children. He has committed no crime."

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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