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Dispute over NGOs still in the headlines

January 14th, 2017

Pundits across the political spectrum debate if and to what extent NGOs should be considered as political actors rather than independent organizations.

Magyar Idők’s Ottó Gajdics suggests that those NGOs which often accuse the government of corruption and anti-democratic rule should be considered political actors rather than independent organizations. The pro-government commentator thinks that the Soros-funded NGOs mentioned by Fidesz Vice-President Németh (see BudaPost January 13) as the main targets of the government’s new bill (see BudaPost January 12) serve as rearguards of the left-wing opposition and use their NGO status to criticize the government both within and outside the country. All this is fine, as long as it is clear that they are part of the political game rather than independent observers of it, Gajdics argues. Thus he sees nothing objectionable in the government’s proposal to increase the transparency of NGOs supported by foreign donors.

On Thursday, Fidesz vice-chairman Szilárd Németh rectified his earlier statement and said  he got carried away when he expressed the desire that the NGOs concerned should be ‘swept out’. János Lázár, the Minister in charge of the  Prime Minister’s office also told the press that the government has never contemplated banning these groups. 

Magyar Narancs in a front page editorial accuses the government nevertheless of trying to silence NGOs which have until now been effective in revealing government corruption. The left-liberal weekly speculates that the governing party wants to silence the NGOs funded by independent donors because they cannot be appeased –  unlike opposition parties which the authors accuse of being at the mercy of the government. The weekly goes on to claim that Fidesz fears these ‘small and independent islands of freedom’ and so it is copying Russian legislation in order to label them as spies and traitors. If these NGOs can be silenced, no one is safe and Fidesz may soon have total control over the people, Magyar Narancs fears. In conclusion, the weekly calls on the public to resist the government and revolt against the proposed policy.

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