On Tuesday 13 June, Hungary’s parliament approved a law imposing strict regulations on foreign funded non-government organisations (NGOs). The law stipulates that groups receiving more than USD 26,000 will have to register as a “foreign-supported organisation” and announce this fact in online and printed publications.
The Hungarian Government says the measures aim to improve transparency and fight money laundering and terrorism funding; however, critics believe the move forms part of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s efforts to stifle dissent and increase control over public discourse. “The Hungarian Government’s public statements already stigmatise those who stand up for human rights and fundamental European values as serving foreign interests,” said Marta Pardavi, Hungarian Helsinki Committee co-chair. “The law is a further slide down the dangerous path of closing civic space, something that has no place in a European democracy.” Other organisations back up this opinion saying that the legislation is a serious attack on Hungarian democracy and called for the law to be reversed. Human Rights Watch and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee released a joint statement on the bill.
There is also a pan-European initiative to show solidarity with Hungarian NGOs. Those leading this movement state “this is a new step in a longer process that aims at fully discrediting civil society organisations. However, there can be no real democracy and civil liberties without independent and critical thinking and a strong civil society”.
You can take part and show solidarity by using the hashtags #civilvagyok, #IstandwithNGOs and #LexNGO or by joining this Facebook group, which is the official page for Hungarian NGOS protesting the bill.