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Freedom House downgrades Hungary

June 29th, 2015

Commenting on a recent report by Freedom House, a left-wing columnist speculates that Hungary will soon become ‘an island of unfreedom’ in Europe. A conservative pundit thinks that the Freedom House assessment is marked by political bias.

Hungary is slowly withdrawing from the democratic European community,” Népszava’s Péter Somfai thinks, after FH downgraded Hungary from ’free’ to ’partly free’ in its annual country report.  The left-wing columnist thinks that the Orbán government has significantly scaled back democracy by centralizing state power and weakening autonomous decision making bodies. Somfai believes that PM Orbán is unlikely to become a supporter of democracy and will not heed concerns voiced by Western European countries. He also speculates that the fence the government plans to erect along Hungary’s southern border will not only keep migrants out, but will also make it impossible for discontented Hungarians to leave.

The Freedom House report is marked by political bias, Szilárd Szőnyi contends in Heti Válasz. The author of the Hungarian country report used to work for the Ministry of Justice under the former Socialist-Liberal government, and most of the eight experts mentioned in the acknowledgement are known liberal intellectuals, the conservative columnist remarks. As the report quantifies the subjective feelings of its authors rather than facts, it is not at all surprising that the verdict suggests a growing democratic deficit in Hungary, Szőnyi concludes.

In Magyar Nemzet (print edition), Miklós Ugró also thinks that the Freedom House report should not be seen as a good indicator of Hungarian developments. The right-wing commentator recalls that according to the Freedom House calculations, Hungarian democracy was strongest in 2006, although that year was marked by the use of illegitimate police violence against anti-government demonstrators.