International Solidarity Action: Stop Targeting Hungarian NGOs!

Since its re-election, the Hungarian government launched a campaign attacking the credibility of Hungarian NGOs and trying to gain controlling power over their funding distributed independently from the government. On June 12th, the Hungarian Government meets the representatives of Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein to discuss the European Economic Area / Norway Grants. While talks between the Norwegian and Hungarian officials is under way, a number of NGOs from around the world, from Kenya through Egypt to Slovakia are showing solidarity with Hungarian NGOs by publishing a joint statement at 9am in support of the Hungarian civil sector’s independence and calling upon politicians to refrain from pressuring NGOs.

The Norway Financial Mechanism (Norway Grants) is part of an agreement between the EU and Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein on funding projects in less-developed European economies. The Hungarian government launched its attack against the Norway Grants at the beginning of April, only a day after its massive re-election victory. The Norwegian NGO Fund is a small portion of the Norway Grants, and is distributed by a consortium of four Hungarian NGOs, which have previously administered the grants with great success. The accusation is that through the four foundations, Norway is trying to influence Hungarian politics. Norway firmly denied these accusations.

When the Norwegian government rejected the charges, the Hungarian government sent agents of the Government Control Office (KEHI) to audit the Fund's administering organizations. The government has led an escalating campaign accusing the four NGOs, which assisted Norway in disbursing the grants, of political meddling. It said KEHI would audit Okotars, the consortium leader NGO, but sent KEHI agents to two other partner organizations as well. The foundations were threatened with the suspension of their tax number if they refused to cooperate, which step would basically paralyze the NGO. The legal basis of the audit is disputed by the administering organizations of the consortium.

In the past years, NGOs, especially those critical of the government were subjected to defamatory attempts. On May 30, 2014, an article was published, which stated that the government blacklisted independent Hungarian civil organizations which have benefitted from the Norwegian NGO Fund based on their alleged political affiliation. In an emailed statement to Reuters on this day, the government said it had no intention of fighting individual NGOs, but it repeated the charges that the grants sought to exert political influence.

Civil organizations' opportunities for legal advocacy and the room to maneuver are becoming rarer, and media publications may be henceforward constrained to exercise self-censorship because regulations of the media law curtailing the freedom of speech and judicial practices would hold them back from publishing articles which criticize the government.

"We believe that a dynamic and independent civil society plays a fundamental role in a democratic society as one of the key checks and balances to governing power. As demonstrated by Putin’s Russia, the harassment could easily lead to the criminalization of NGOs and effectively hindering their work." - said Hungarian NGO's.

 Recommended articles, statements:

http://www.liberties.eu/en/news/putins-methods-against-criticism

http://norvegcivilalap.hu/en/government_attacks_hungarian_NGOs

http://english.atlatszo.hu/2014/06/03/hungarian-govt-targets-ngos-atlatszo-hu-is-also-under-assault/

http://www.transparency.org/news/pressrelease/transparency_international_calls_for_an_immediate_end_to_intimidation_

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/02/us-hungary-norway-funding-ngo-idUSKBN0ED1QW20140602?feedType=RSS&irpc=932

List of NGOs which have joined the campaign:

ALEG: Association for Gender Liberty and Equality (Romania)
American Civil Liberties Union (US)
Association for emancipation, solidarity and equality of women of RM – ESE (Macedonia)
ASTRA  Federation for Women and Family Planning / ASTRA Secretariat (Poland/CEE-region)
Avocat à la Cour
Bill Walsh (human rights lawyer and participant of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable)
Bulgarian Family Planning and Sexual Health Association (Bulgaria)
Bulgarian Environmental Partnership Foundation (Fondaciya EkoObshtnost)
CEEweb for Biodiversity
Central and Eastern European Women’s Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health (ASTRA)
Centre for Philanthropy
Centre Women and Modern World (Azerbaijan)
Centro Italiano Opere Femminili Salesiane - Formazione Professionale (Italy)
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
European Environmental Bureau
European Foundation Centre
European Schoolhead Association
European Women's Lobby
EWL: European Women’s Lobby
Family Planning and Sexual Health Association (Lithuania)
FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights / Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l'Homme)
GERT: Gender Education, Research and Technologies (Bulgaria)
Global Voices Online
GONG (Croatia)
Government Accountability Project (US)
HERA: Association for Health Education and Research (Macedonia)
Human Rights Monitoring Institute (Lithuania)
Human Rights Watch
ILGA Europe
Iniciatíva inakost' (Slovakia LGBT)
Irish Council for Civil Liberties
Carpathian Foundation (Slovakia)
Kenya Human Rights Commission
Latvia's Association for Family Planning and Sexual Health (Latvia)
Liberties.eu
Liberty (UK)
Ljubljana Pride (Slovenia)
MEDEL (Magistrats européens pour la démocratie et les libertés)
Nadacia Ekopolis (Slovakia)
ngo.pl (Poland)
Open Data Albania
Open Knowledge Foundation
Plataforma Portuguesa para os Direitos das Mulheres - PpDM (Portugal)
Poderopedia (Chile)
Prague Pride (Czech Republic)
Public Concern at work (UK)
Queer Leaders Forum (Slovakia LGBT)
Real People Real Vision (Georgia)
Right International Spain
Society Without Violence (Armenia)
Sunlight Foundation (US)
The International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion
Transparency International Croatia
Transparency International Germany
Transparency International Greece
Transparency International Latvia
Transparency International Secretariat
Transparency International Slovenia
Transparency International UK
Transparency International Portugal
Transparency International Finland
Transparency International Ukraine
Transparency International France
tranzit.org
Union Women Center (Georgia)
VAWE Network: Women Against Violence Europe
WATCH DOCS (PL)
Whistleblowing International Network
Women's Rights Center (Armenia)
Zagreb Pride (Croatia)
Deutscher Naturschutzring (DNR)
Ecoropea
Foundation for Environment and Agriculture (Bulgaria)
Indigenous peoples’ and community conserved territories and areas (ICCA) Consorcium
The Nuclear-Free Future Award Foundation
Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF)

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