Viktor Orban has written to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen calling for Vera Jourova, the EU commissioner for values and transparency, to step down.
In the letter, published by the Hungarian news agency MTI on Tuesday, the prime minister of Hungary referred to comments made by Jourova in an interview with Der Spiegel magazine.
The right-wing Hungarian leader wrote that his government had ended bilateral political contacts with Jourova, who also serves as vice president of the European Commission, following her "latest derogatory public statements."
EU Commission spokeswoman Dana Spinant confirmed that von der Leyen had received Orban's letter and would reply. Von der Leyen has "full trust" in her vice president, said Spinant.
"Our concerns when it comes to the rule of law situation in Hungary are well known," said Spinant.
'Alarming' media environment in Hungary
Jourova told Der Spiegel that she found the media landscape in Hungary to be "alarming."
According to Jourova, there is little critique of the government in the country's local media and the majority of Hungarians have no room to express their free opinion.
In her interview, the Czech politician said that Orban was "building a sick democracy."
The Hungarian prime minister construed these comments to be "not only a direct political attack against the democratically elected Government of Hungary," but also "a humiliation to Hungary and the Hungarian people."
Orban wrote that Jourova's remarks were "in contradiction with the Commission's role as a neutral and objective institution," according to the Lisbon Treaty, as well as a "blatant violation of the principle of sincere cooperation" that "prevent any meaningful future dialogue" between Hungary and Jourova.
Shrinking room for dissent
Orban has led the government in Hungary since 2010, and under his leadership the majority of independent media outlets have been shut down or bought out through economic means and pro-government oligarchs.
A press and media foundation close to the Orban government, KESMA, now runs a conglomerate of almost 500 media organizations, including television, radio and internet portals.
Orban has frequently clashed with EU leaders over his government's increasing control over the media, judiciary and academia. The prime minister has defended himself as a protector of Hungarian sovereignty in the face of increasing pressure from Brussels.
Hungary is currently facing the EU's so-called Article 7 procedure over the bloc's rule-of-law concerns.
Orban described his country in the letter on Tuesday as always being "a committed Member State of the European Union."
kmm, ab/dr (dpa, Reuters, AFP)