BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The Times of Malta on Thursday joined several other European newspapers in refusing requests from Hungary's government to publish a full-page paid advertisement featuring Prime Minister Viktor Orban's vision for the future of the European Union.
Numerous papers from around Europe published the ad -- translated into local languages — during a week in which Hungary's government came under fire for legislation it passed in June that many European leaders decried as an attack on LGBT rights.
In a Thursday statement, the Times of Malta wrote that publishing the ad would make the paper “an instrument for promoting everything that runs against press freedom," and referred to Orban as a prime minister that “has clamped down on journalists, democracy, rule of law and other human rights.”
The paper also referred to Hungary's recent legislation -- which prohibits displaying to minors any content that depicts homosexuality or gender reassignment in films, television shows and sexual education programs in schools — as “a blatant violation of human rights for an EU country.”
In the ad, which was run in France, Spain, the Czech Republic and other countries, Orban alleges that “in Brussels they are building a superstate," and that European integration is “a means, not an end.”
“We say no to a European empire,” one of the ad's seven points reads.
Orban, a frequent critic of the EU and often at odds with European leaders over his government's record on the rule of law, refers to the European Parliament as a “dead end,” and blasts non-governmental organizations for having undue influence in policymaking. He also urged the accession of Serbia into the 27-member bloc.
Belgium's De Standaard newspaper, which refused to print the ad, issued a response to Orban in a full-page spread on Tuesday.
“Dear Viktor Orban, laws should never distinguish love from love ... No government should dictate how to speak about love,” the page reads on a backdrop of rainbow colors.
Karel Verhoeven, De Standaard's editor-in-chief, wrote in an accompanying message on the paper's website that it would be “too cynical to sell media space to a government leader who has restricted the free press in his country.”
Belgian papers La Libre Belgique and De Morgen also declined to run the ad. Editor-in-chief of Swedish paper Dagens Nyheter, Peter Wolodarski, wrote on Twitter that the paper had requested an interview with Orban instead, but had not received an answer.
Peter Fellman, editor-in-chief of Swedish daily Dagens Industri which published the ad, told Swedish broadcaster SVT on Thursday that it was “a difficult decision, but we are a liberal newspaper that protects freedom (of expression.)"