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EU’s Juncker lashes Hungary’s Orban over fake news

European Union leaders attend a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, Friday, Dec. 14, 2018. European Union leaders have offered Theresa May sympathy but no promises, as the British prime minister seeks a lifeline that could help her sell her Brexit divorce deal to a hostile U.K. Parliament. (Stephanie Lecocq, Pool Photo via AP)

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker lashed out at the leader of Hungary on Friday for spreading fake news, after EU leaders called for measures to tackle the deliberate spread of disinformation in time for European elections in five months.

“Fake news are not only to be found in the camp of the fake newsers,” Juncker, speaking English, told reporters at an EU summit in Brussels. He said he had warned EU leaders, and notably Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, that sometimes leaders themselves are the source of disinformation.

“When Mr.Orban, for example, is saying that I am responsible for the Brexit: fake news. When he is saying that migrants are responsible for the Brexit: fake news,” Juncker said. “So let’s not put all the responsibility on others.”

In a statement from their summit, the leaders said that the threat of disinformation “is an acute and strategic challenge for our democratic systems.”

They called for “an urgent response that needs to be sustained over time, in full respect of fundamental rights.”

The issue demands “swift and decisive action” aimed at “securing free and fair European and national elections,” they said, tasking EU ministers to report back on progress in March.

Elections to the European Parliament are to be held across Europe in late May. Britain will not take part as it is leaving the bloc.

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