Hungary intellectuals ask Clinton to defend democracy

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 27, 2011 10:19 AM
Hungary intellectuals ask Clinton to defend democracy

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - A group of Hungarian intellectuals have called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to speak out against what they called their country's "autocratic system" during her visit to Budapest this week.

In a letter dated June 26, the group said Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government was systematically removing checks and balances to its powers.

There was no one immediately available to comment from Hungary's government or foreign ministry.

The writers, philosophers and other people who opposed Hungary's old communist regime said the new center-right government had restricted the freedom of the press, curbed the powers of the top court and passed a new constitution earlier this year which tied the hands of future governments.

"An autocratic system is in the making in Hungary," they wrote to Clinton and the U.S. Ambassador in Hungary.

"The historic visit of President George Bush in 1989 helped us Hungarians to establish democracy in our country. Your visit may help us to prevent its demolition today," they added.

During his visit to Budapest in July 1989, former President George Bush gave a speech in front of the parliament building to thousands of Hungarians, saluting the reforms and changes that were taking place at the time.

Clinton is due to arrive in Budapest Wednesday and is scheduled to meet Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi and the prime minister Thursday.

The intellectuals included writer Gyorgy Konrad and former OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Miklos Haraszti.

They said the government - an alliance between the center-right Fidesz and KDNP parties that won a two-thirds parliamentary majority in 2010 - was threatening democracy.

"(Orban's) ruling coalition systematically demolishes the constitutional guarantees of separation of powers, removing all checks and balances that restrain the executive," they said.

The intellectuals said the media authority created under the new media law this year was a one-party authority that could deny media outlets the renewal of their licenses.

Hungary's media law came under sharp criticism within the EU after it was passed in 2010.

In April the government also passed a new constitution which critics said would cement its powers further and tie the hands of future governments in key areas of policy.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Andrew Heavens)