BUDAPEST — Inside the Hungarian state broadcaster on Monday afternoon, an opposition lawmaker was lying on the floor, surrounded by security guards. Outside the building, a fellow member of Parliament was trying to burst through police lines to reach him.
Both filmed themselves on their phones to broadcast the encounters on Facebook.
But on the main state television channel, the talk was all about pigeons.
“Pigeon meat,” said the narrator of a program extolling the virtues of pigeon farming, “is highly sought-after abroad.”
Under Hungary’s far-right prime minister, Viktor Orban, the country has long been a place of two parallel realities.
But rarely have these two bubbles seemed so far apart than during the past week.
Since this past Wednesday, opposition parties, activists and ordinary citizens have maintained an unusually sustained and unified series of protests and sit-ins — in Parliament, at the state media headquarters and, most prominently, in the streets.
Yet Hungarians who consume only state media, or the private outlets owned by Orban loyalists, will likely be either unaware of the scale of the protests, or consider them the work of foreign provocateurs.
Pro-Orban media have described the protesters as the agents of George Soros, the Hungarian-American philanthropist who is a frequent target for far-right conspiracy theorists — if they mention them at all.
On Monday afternoon, for example, barring a few fleeting clips of the protests, programming at the state broadcaster continued as normal — even as the lawmaker outside threatened to crash through the building’s locked glass doors to reach her guard-ringed colleague inside.
“This is not normal,” said the lawmaker, Agnes Vadai, “that there is an M.P. on the floor inside this building, surrounded by security guards.”
Having no luck at one locked entrance, Ms. Vadai marched to another gate, this one blocked by armed guards. There was the sound of a small scuffle, and a muffled scream.
Suddenly, Ms. Vadai emerged on the other side of the police line.
While Ms. Vadai had made it closer to her colleague, she still wasn’t inside the building, where they continued to broadcast that program about pigeons.
“We don’t want to give pigeons away to people who don’t know what they are doing, people who have no background with pigeons,” a government minister was saying. “Because that would be destined for failure.”
Hungary’s odd week began last Wednesday, when Mr. Orban’s party bent parliamentary rules to pass a series of new laws without allotting enough parliamentary time for debate.
One law created a parallel judicial system, the latest of a series of broadsides against democratic norms that includes the reshaping of the electoral system in Mr. Orban’s favor; the stacking of the Constitutional Court with Orban loyalists; and the erosion of media freedom and media plurality.
But the legislation that sparked the most anger among opposition lawmakers was the so-called slave law that obligates employees to work up to 400 hours of overtime a year and gives employers up to three years to pay.
Trying to delay its passage and disrupt parliamentary business, opposition legislators blocked access to the speaker’s podium and blew whistles. The law was ultimately voted through, but the pandemonium energized several thousand Hungarians to protest in subzero conditions, three nights in a row, in the square outside.
They took a break on Saturday, before an estimated 15,000 returned on Sunday — the highest numbers of the week.
As night fell, around 2,000 then marched several miles through the snow to the state media building on the edge of town, to protest the broadcaster’s failure to cover the demonstrations.
“The state television symbolizes everything that we’re protesting against,” said Marton Bartha, 28, one of the first to arrive. “The government won the elections in April by telling lies to society — and the main instrument of their campaign was Hungarian state television, broadcasting lies day and night.”
While the crowds chanted outside, about 10 opposition lawmakers entered the building to ask for some airtime. They were shown to a green room, and passed the night by snacking on chocolate bars from a nearby vending machine.
“It was a good bonding experience,” said one of the legislators, Peter Ungar.
But 10 hours later, they were still there — and no closer to discussing their demands on air.
A fourth, Ms. Vadai, was treated by paramedics after being pushed and shoved while trying to reach Mr. Varju.
Where all these surreal scenes end up, no one is quite sure — particularly as significant portions of the country may be only fleetingly aware of their occurrence. The protests are still relatively small, especially in comparison to Mr. Orban’s base.
His party won nearly 50 percent of the vote in an April election that election observers said was free but not fair.
The demonstrators are merely “a band of the usual suspects, many of them trained abroad and with close ties to Soros networks,” wrote the government spokesman, Zoltan Kovacs, on his blog on Monday.
And for Mr. Kovacs, if there is an parallel universe in Hungary, it is one created by “spin doctors in the international media,” rather than at the state broadcaster.
“We’ve seen this before,” Mr. Kovacs wrote, “I mean the international, mainstream media creating a sort of alternative reality.”