Hungary: Law on NGO's foreign funding seen passed by mid-May

AP News
Posted: Apr 05, 2017 11:36 AM

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — A law on the foreign funding of non-governmental organizations is expected to be approved by mid-May, a deputy speaker of Hungary's parliament said Wednesday.

The proposal mainly targets groups like Transparency International and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee which are partly funded by Hungarian-born U.S. financier George Soros. Critics say the initiative is part of a wider crackdown on liberal democratic values by Prime Minister Viktor Orban that seeks to stigmatize the organizations and their members.

On Tuesday, Fidesz lawmakers approved changes to the law on higher education which could lead to the closure of Central European University, founded by Soros.

Deputy Speaker Gergely Gulyas, from the governing Fidesz party, said the NGOs "have no right to conceal who their real supporters are."

"Organizations funded by George Soros are attacking the Hungarian government more sharply than ever before," Gulyas said. "Hungary has to defend itself through transparency."

The draft bill discussed in a closed meeting in Parliament considers civic groups receiving more than 7.2 million forints ($24,750) a year from abroad to be "foreign-funded" and would make public the funds' amount and source. The NGOs would also have to include a notice on their websites and in all their publications that they are funded from abroad.

Failure to comply would lead to fines and even the possibility of being shut down.

"The government does not want to debate these organizations and the facts," said Akos Hadhazy, a lawmaker from the green Politics Can Be Different party. "Instead, it wants to eliminate the anti-corruption and human rights organizations."

The government has been especially angry with the Helsinki Committee, which represented two men from Bangladesh awarded 10,000 euros ($10,670) plus legal costs last month by the European Court of Human Rights in compensation for their illegal detention and deportation by Hungary in 2015.

"They want to destroy the Hungarian border protection system and force the free entry of migrants into Hungary," Gulyas said.