Entries RSS Feed Share Send to Facebook Tweet This Accessible version

Parliament passes NGO law

June 17th, 2017

Two liberal weeklies accuse the government of trying to demonize and silence foreign funded watchdog organizations.

On Wednesday, Parliament approved amendments to the law on NGOs tabled by Fidesz. The law requires that NGOs which receive more than 7.2 million Forints from foreign donors register as ‘foreign supported’ NGOs and disclose their foreign donors. The governing party claims that the new law increases transparency, helps anti-terrorism efforts and protects against foreign interest groups that could pursue their interests through NGOsFollowing recommendations bythe Venice Commission, the bill was modified so that it does not require a personal asset declaration from the leading officials of the groups. The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ) and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee nonetheless announced that they will challenge the law in European courts and that they will not comply with its terms. In what they call a gesture of civil disobedience, the two organizations will not register, nor will they mention in their documents that they are funded from abroad. The US Embassy expressed its concern over the law, claiming that it targets human rights and anti-corruption NGOs.

Magyar Narancs in a front page editorial dismisses the government’s argument that the new rules serve transparency. The liberal weekly recalls that NGOs targeted by the amendments have always disclosed their sponsors. The paper also rejects the claim that the new rules will help protect Hungary against terrorist organizations. In conclusion, Magyar Narancs thinks that the law has no other aim than to ‘demonize’ NGOs critical of the government. 

In Heti Világgazdaság, Árpád W. Tóta accuses the government of intending to curtail the work of anti-corruption NGOs in order to prevent them from revealing cases of misuse of public money. The liberal pundit fears that NGOs will now need to focus more on defending themselves rather than monitoring the government and defending human rights.

Conservative and pro-government media outlets have so far not commented on the NGO law. They quote a statement by Fidesz deputy floor leader Szilárd Németh who mentioned the results of the latest National Consultation as ‘clearly legitimising’ the new legislation, as 99 per cent of  the 1.7 million respondents to the government’s questionnaire deemed it necessary to reveal which NGOs are being funded from foreign sources. 

Tags: ,